Star Troupe’s top otokoyaku star speaks out

by Mark Buckton

Special To The Japan Times

Ahead of their current Taiwan tour, Yuzuki Reon, the current top otokoyaku (male-role actress) with the Takarazuka Revue, took time out between rehearsals at the city-center Tokyo Takarazuka Theater to share with readers of The Japan Times something of her view from such a lofty show-biz height.

As popular as the Takarazuka Revue is in Japan, in the coming years do you see it making further headway overseas?

I do hope so. The company has already performed overseas many times over the past 100 years, but unfortunately, even in Japan, Takarazuka, just like kakubi, is still not as popular as cinema. People do not go to watch Takarazuka (or kabuki) as frequently as they go to the cinema, so hopefully more overseas performances will make our existence better known in the outside world.

The company is about to leave for a run of shows in Taipei, but you already went there as part of the publicity and media buildup. Are you now looking forward to returning and leading your troupe in the first overseas performance for some years?

Yes, I am. In fact, prior to the publicity press conference in Taipei, I had already made a personal trip to Taiwan, and I enjoyed the delicious local food, and appreciated meeting the people with their kind and loving personalities. I particularly loved the hot-spring spas!

Taiwan is one of the pro-Japanese Asian countries out there, and I received a warm welcome wherever I went, so I am really looking forward to going back, and I hope more and more Taiwanese people will learn about, and love, our form of theater.

In your career to date, what has been the favorite role you have performed?

It’s hard to choose just one, as I am performing almost every day and always seem to think “today’s” role is my favorite.

Of course, when I look back, I reflect on plays that formed turning points in my career as among my favorites — but the role I really like best is always the one I am playing right now.

And which role in the Takarazuka repertoire would you jump at the chance of playing, but have as yet not been offered?

(After much thought … ) Elisabeth — in the show of the same name — if I had to choose one. But since I was a junior actress, I have long imagined what it would be like to play a role as one of the Black Angels backing dancers in “Elisabeth.”

Dance is always an important part of your own performances, and you are well known for your wide-ranging dance skills, but what other aspect of you, the person, do you like to display in your performances?

I have loved dancing since long before I joined the Takarazuka Revue, but nowadays I really enjoy all the other aspects of the performances just as much.

For example, Japanese dance, getting into the role itself — and singing. I believe audiences can see through a performer who does not put their heart into their show. So please look at me and you decide whether or not I am giving my all in whatever I am doing on stage.

Away from Takarazuka but staying in theater, what form do you most enjoy as an audience member?

That would be the currently most popular French or American musicals.

I have recently been to France to see the musical “Romeo et Juliette.” I was surprised at the enthusiastic applause offered by the French audience every time someone on stage finished their singing part, and I saw a similar passionate reaction on Broadway in New York about a decade ago — so I would really like to be once again sitting as an audience member in such a whirl of excitement.

The finale is perhaps the best-known feature of any Takarazuka performance (as the entire cast descends a large flight of steps attired in costumes more extravagant the more senior the performer), but in one word, how would you describe what it feels like to stand on the stage at the end of a show looking out at thousands of fans?

Bliss.

I see the fans looking very happy, and that makes me happy too.

  • ChuChu

    I love you Chie, your work, your passion to bring a performance to life, your always cute and kind personality, I just can’t describe in mere words the feeling of happiness I have right now after reading your interview.
    Please Always be the beautiful and hardworking person you are, and always excel yourself at what you do!

    LOVE YOU forever

    ~Chuchu~