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Takarazuka Revue troupe takes its show infused with 'woman power' to Taiwan

Kyodo

Japan’s all-woman Takarazuka Revue has kicked off its third Taiwan tour in Taipei with a performance filled with grandeur and style showcasing its unique brand of “woman power.”

“We are the world’s only all-female musical performance company, and we want the audience here to see that uniqueness and feel the power from our performance,” Yuzuru Kurenai, the troupe’s top star, told reporters after Friday’s rehearsal. The tour started on Saturday.

As the top star, Kurenai plays the leading otoko yaku or male roles opposite Airi Kisaki, who is the top musume yaku or female role player.

Takarazuka’s 39-member Star Troupe will stage 14 performances at the National Theater in Taipei between Saturday and Oct. 28, and six more at a venue in the southern city of Kaohsiung between Nov. 2 to 5. The Star Troupe, which was formed when the Tokyo Takarazuka Theater opened in 1933, is one of the company’s five main groups.

Each performance consists of two parts.

The first is a new production called “Thunderbolt Fantasy,” a martial-arts musical based on a Japanese-Taiwanese glove puppetry television series that has aired on Japanese TV.

Takarazuka writer and director Naoko Koyanagi said she was inspired to produce the program when she went to Taiwan during the group’s first tour of the island some five years ago.

Koyanagi said she hopes their performance will win over more fans in Taiwan and entertain home audiences, referring to the groups’s final performance in Taipei, which will be live-streamed to Japan.

The second part is a standard Takarazuka musical number called “Killer Rouge,” in which Kurenai takes center stage.

In the show, members sing popular Taiwanese songs, which Kurenai said were “extremely hard” to learn.

“We worked with a language coach and recorded lessons in order to practice,” she said.

The October engagement is Kurenai’s second performance in Taiwan but her first as the top star of the Star Troupe.

Yoshimasa Saito, director of “Killer Rouge,” said the theme is a “modern musical filled with love, passion, fire and the color red.”

Saito said Takarazuka decided to perform in Taiwan following the island’s generous donations in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, and every Taiwan tour aims to advance bilateral relations.

Takarazuka performed for the first time in Taiwan in 2013 to rave reviews. Following its second visit in August 2015, also to sell-out crowds, it received many requests to come again. The latest tour marks the first time for the company to perform in both northern and southern Taiwan.

Launched in 1913 as the theater troupe Takarazuka Shokatai (Takarazuka Chorus), the Takarazuka Revue first performed in 1914 and marked its centennial in 2014.

On average, the troupe attracts an audience of 2.7 million people in Japan each year. Since the company went on its first foreign tour in 1938, it has performed in 18 countries and territories, including China, Hong Kong and even the United States.

The Hyogo Prefecture-based organizer has turned its eye to the rapidly growing Asian market as Japan’s dwindling population means it can no longer expect to significantly increase the number of new fans at home.