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BeruBara and the Takarazuka Revue

January 22, 2013

If you – like me – have watched the anime “The Rose of Versailles” (Berusaiyu no Bara or short: BeruBara) as a child, I don’t need to explain any further, but for those who haven’t, it is a very popular manga written by Ryoko Ikeda in the early 1970s. Maybe you’re more familiar with “Lady Oscar” the main character, who despite being born a girl is raised as a boy to fulfill the wish of her father, a general, for a successor. Although it is a fictive story it takes place in France around the time of the French Revolution and parts of the storyline are based on historical events and characters.

I really loved the anime when I was in elementary school – in fact, I still do and I can still sing the German intro. You can imagine how excited I was when I heard that the Takarazuka Revue is going to play The Rose of Versailles – again, I have to say. Because The Rose of Versailles is actually the most famous play of the Takarazuka Revue and played a crucial role in reviving the musical after television became its enemy.

As explained in the documentary below (in Japanese), when TVs spread and the stars could be watched at home, very few people went to see Takarazuka shows. The Revue faced a crisis when one of its fans suggested to turn The Rose of Versailles, the most popular manga at the time, into a play. But this wasn’t as easy as imagined.

The actresses struggled with the problem of how to turn the poses from the manga into movements on stage. They managed to overcome this problem with the help of Hasegawa Kazuo, a famous actor in film and theatre. He was familiar with playing both male and female roles and used his experience to translate The Rose of Versailles into the musical we know today. For example, he told the actress playing Oscar where to stand by using what is called the “golden position” in Kabuki theatre. He also told her where to look to make use of the lighting and let her eyes sparkle just like it is drawn in the manga.

The play was a great success. But there was one storyline in the manga, which hadn’t been included in the musical: The love of André for Oscar. Because of the positive reactions to the first play, it was decided to bring The Rose of Versailles to the stage a second time, but this time the story of André and Oscar would be more important than the story of the French Revolution. Hasegawa again helped to realize the play and created the famous scene between André and Oscar. The second play was even more successful than the first and led to the so-called “BeruBara-Boom” which revived the Takarazuka Review.

Ever since, The Rose of Versailles has been played by different troupes and in different versions every few years and never lost its popularity. I’ve seen a few plays at the Takarazuka Review during the last years, but I was always waiting for a chance to watch BeruBara and this year the chance had finally come.

I knew that tickets would be hard to get and so I started hunting as soon as the advance sale started. Not even a really bad cold could stop me from that 😀 It took half an hour of constantly reloading the Revue’s website until I had my tickets, but it was totally worth it. The play was as epic as I imagined. It was also as kitschy as it could get. Especially the last scene which was hilarious, but I won’t spoil you here. If you ever have the chance to watch this play don’t miss it!

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