Last Wednesday, during our weekly tutorial (masculinities and femininities in education), ‘takarazuka’ was mentioned. Until then I haven’t heard of Japanese all female musical theatre groups, that perform lavish Western-style musical in Japanese. I was intrigued and consequently had to investigate a bit. So, here is some short background info (more info here):
Takarazuka was founded in 1913, with the first performance staged in 1914. Both male and female roles are performed by women. Before becoming a full member of the group, a woman must train for two years in the Takarazuka Music School, one of the most competitive of its kind in the world. Only about 40-50 women are accepted each year to train with the school (singing, dancing, acting), which is known for its strict discipline and its custom of having first-year students clean the premises each morning!
The women performing male roles, learn how to act (e.g. speak, walk, behave) in a more masculine way. That acting out of male roles might probably be part of the appeal of the groups’ predominantly female audience, who enjoy watching women portraying men, something that they are not, in a society where strict gender roles exist.
In any case, I did watch two performances, the Austrian musical “Elisabeth” and “Romeo and Juliette“. Both were outstanding! I enjoyed the melodramatic performances, beautiful costumes, make up and stage set and last but not least listening to the songs in Japanese!
- Takarazuka Revue to stage Chu Liuxiang play in Taipei (wantchinatimes.com)