A new take on an old classic: Takarazuka presents 'King Arthur'

Sep. 21, 2016

From kabuki and noh to bunraku and rakugo, Japan is a bottomless well of traditional arts that are gradually becoming more accessible and comprehensive to foreign audiences. But underneath the veil of performing arts dubbed "culturally essential for foreign audiences" lies a hidden gem that is still largely surrounded by mystery: the all-female performing troupes Takarazuka Revue.

Largely perceived as the revolutionary sister act of kabuki, the Takarazuka Revue boasts 103 years of history bringing Japan's top actresses to the front of the country's theatrical stage in an impressively arranged Broadway-style gender twist. You get it, here women do the job and the gentlemen are just invited to watch. 

Enormously successful domestically, but still intriguingly unexplored overseas, this year, Takarazuka Revue is taking on a new challenge, aimed at promoting its shows to foreign audiences in a bid to raise awareness of its cultural importance.

In October, Takarazuka Revue invites you to witness its unique take on the French musical "La Legende Du Roi Arthur" (King Arthur), an immensely popular show that has been setting audiences on their feet since its debut in Paris in September 2015.

The story is familiar: King Arthur of the Celts travels to the court at Camelot to wed the beautiful Guinevere, a lady from the neighboring realm, and makes her his queen. Together with the Knights of the Round Table, who swear an oath of loyalty, Arthur scrambles to defend his kingdom against the Saxon menace, until one day, Sir Lancelot du Lac, seeking to join the Round Table, visits Camelot…

Ryo Tamaki, the troupe's new top star, plays King Arthur, who is torn between the responsibilities fate has laid upon the young king and his love. Witnessing the troupe's fresh start as they sing and dance to French rock arranged with Celtic folk music turned pop will be something to look forward to — as well as have your (perhaps) first ever chance to see King Arthur being played by a female.

As part of its initiative to promote Takarazuka to foreigners, the troupe's owner Hankyu Railways asks for spectators' cooperation in sharing their views on the show by answering a simple questionnaire in exchange for a discounted price, sharing their view on the show and future expectations.

So if you're up for a new cultural experience and want to help Japan explore its unbeaten performing tracks — start your autumn with King Arthur.

Dates and Time: October 15, 3:30 p.m., October 16, 11 a.m. Venue: Bunkyo Civic Hall,  1-16-21 Kasuga, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo Price: ¥5,000 (A-rank seats) Tickets & Reservations:

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I'll give this one a miss.....

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How I would love to be there!!! I missed watching them when I was in Osaka in early September! T_T This is an incredible group!!! Ever since I saw "Chicago" at the Lincoln Center, I knew I wanted to watch them once I went to Japan. Since I have seen a bit of Ryuichi Kawamura's portrayal of Billy Flynn (via Youtube), I was wondering how Shizuki Asato would do. (Ironically, I was in Japan for Mr. Kawamura's fan club tour) She was amazing!!! It was either on "All I Care About" or "We Both Reached for the Gun" that she hit one note and sustained it for so long (similar to a wind instrumentalist's circular breathing), something Ryuichi Kawamura tends to do (these days without microphone or speakers or, when he has a microphone, his hand holding the microphone moves to the side and you hear his voice even as far as the last row of the theater, still so loud and clear). And she did it not with a female voice, but with a male one! Not to mention she was such a handsome Billy Flynn that whenever she came out, be it during "Chicago" or their spectacle variety after it, all the ladies started screaming. Talk about イケメン (ikemen)!

When I saw her photo for "Elisabeth," I thought she pretty much looked like Shotaro Mamiya in 「銀河英雄伝説」("Legend of Galactic Heroes") stage play.

No matter which artist plays male of female roles, it's so nice to see how they are versatile enough to switch. You will find out that some of the artists who currently play female roles also played male roles in other presentations!

Oh well, I missed them this year. I must make a point to see them when I visit Japan next year. I couldn't care less about any discount, I'll pay the price for their talent, since they are really worth it!

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Amazing costumes!

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the girl in the blue dress is just gorgeous!

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Only ever seen them, once, on telly, middle of the night when I couldn't sleep because of jetlag. A performance of traditional? Kabuki? Style ... Fabulous sets, and costumes, plus acting dancing, and the women as men were brilliant! Acting the nobility of great, honourable men, as any myth or saga might best describe it. This show I imagine must be a colossal hit, around the world. They don't act 'gay', but as closely observed cultural gender roles, and they carry that off superbly. Ace for them all!

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I love French musicals, and this one was really good. In my opinion, dresses and costumes of the Japanese version look great, however, performing French musicals with all-female voices is not the best idea, a least not for this one. La Legende du Roi Arthur needs a strong contrast between voices, which is hard to achieve only with female actors. On the other hand, I'd love to see King Arthur's role being played by a female, since that would remind me about the famous anime/novel series Fate. Let's see how it turns out.

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