On Tuesday I decided to play hooky and go see a musical. Well, I bought the ticket months in advance, so I was skipping school come hell or high water! I had seen the Takarazuka Revue’s version of “1789 ~Lovers at the Bastille~” last summer, so the story was somewhat familiar. The Takarazuka Revue is an all-female theatre troupe where beautiful, handsome women play the male roles. (Think the reverse of Shakespearean theatre- where men played women’s roles because women weren’t allowed on stage!) However, Tuesday’s performance was a mixed cast of men and women; so despite having seen the show once before, I knew I was in for a completely different experience.
Overall, I was very pleased. It didn’t leave me wowed or jumping out of my seat for a standing O, but it was still a good time. The ensemble was full of great dancers, and the male leads were awesome. There were four male leads and each had wonderful vocals and dance skills- except for one guy, Rio Uehara. His voice was a husky, rumbling bass (which I absolutely loved!) but he couldn’t pop and lock for his life! The choreography was so cool, but there was just something about his movements that seemed unnatural and just silly. That’s ok, though, because his vocals completely made up for his awkward dancing! Out of all the men, he stole the show for me.
The ladies were also impressive. There were two ex-Takarazuka actresses in the show, Yumesaki Nene and Ouki Kaname. Ms. Yumesaki played the lead female role of Olympe. The character is a cute maiden who works at Versailles caring for Marie Antoinette’s sickly child, and ends up falling in love with the lead male Ronan, played by Kato Kazuki. Olympe was a perfect fit for Ms. Yumesaki, who sang beautifully and gave a wonderfully nuanced and authentic performance. Ms. Ouki played Marie Antoinette. The role was new for her, since she played men’s roles while at the Takarazuka Revue. She did an all right job, overall. Her acting wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great either. The vocal range of the role was also not a good fit, either; some notes were painfully off key. I was left under-impressed, sadly. Hopefully she’ll get better at acting women’s roles the longer she spends outside of Takarazuka.
The best actress was by far Sonim as Solene, the Ronan’s sister. I was so impressed with her that as I took notes, I literally wrote, “You da real MVP, Sonim!” (Don’t judge! I know I’m a geek!) At the beginning, she sings a powerful rock-style ballad about prostitutes and their struggles in 18th century Paris (it sounds like it would be awful to sing about, but it’s actually quite emotional). Ms. Sonim is a vocal powerhouse, but lacks finesse; especially during that song, she let her emotions get to her and was a bit screamy towards the end. However, as the show progressed, I noticed a shift in her acting; I think she found her groove and was able to deliver an awesome performance vocally and acting-wise. Due to her lack of emotional control her voice sounded strained, but I was impressed that she was able to reign herself in. I’ve got high hopes for her. (Side note: I’m going to see the Japanese version of Kinky Boots in August and she’s in it. I’m so excited!)
(Resource: Toho Productions)
Despite leaving a bit underwhelmed, I was still able to enjoy the experience thanks to a few wonderful actors. That’s what is so cool about live theatre: maybe it’s not the best show overall, but those few amazing actors who deliver the performance of their lives each show make it so worth watching.