The Takarazuka Revue – No Men Allowed

The Takarazuka Revue is a 100-year-old entertainment phenomenon in Japan. Its spectacular stage musicals attract almost two million fans each year to the two main theatres – one in Tokyo and one in Takarazuka, the town in which the troupe was founded. The unique characteristic of this troupe is that all the parts are played by women, with the actresses being divided into “otokoyaku” (male role) and “musumeyaku” (daughter’s role). Even though no men are allowed onstage, there are plenty of men behind the scenes, working as writers, directors, choreographers, designers or as members of the orchestra.

Every year, thousands of young women audition to join the troupe, out of which only 40 or 50 are accepted. The lucky chosen ones are then required to attend the Takarazuka Music School for two years, where they undergo rigorous training in music, dance and acting. The Revue has acted as a launchpad for many of Japan’s most famous actresses.

The musical performances are sometimes drawn from traditional Japanese stories and folklore (or even manga), but are more often adapted from western musicals, complete with chorus lines and grand finales reminiscent of Broadway or Las Vegas revues.

Not only are all the cast members women, but it’s estimated that as many as 90% of the fans are also women. A lot has been written as to why that is, with author Jennifer Robertson examining the lesbian overtones which she says are present in every production, “simply by virtue of the fact that women play every role.” In fact, in the decade after the troupe was created in 1914, many people were scandalised when women began writing love letters to their favorite otokoyakus. Robertson’s theory is that “many [women] are attracted to the Takarazuka otokoyaku because she represents an exemplary female who can negotiate successfully both genders and their attendant roles and domains.”

Recently attendance has begun to stagnate, so the troupe is looking to raise its profile abroad; the theory being that the more people in other asian countries are exposed to Takarazuka, the more foreign tourists will be drawn to their theatres in Japan. Next month, a troupe will perform in Taiwan.

The video above is the complete 2007 Takarazuka production of Elisabeth, Ai to Shi no Rondo (Part 1).

Read Jennifer Robertson’s book – Takarazuka: Sexual Politics and Popular Culture in Modern Japan.


One comment on “The Takarazuka Revue – No Men Allowed

  1. ま風はるか
    May 15, 2013

    And yet another article that downgrades the Revue’s art and the performers, focusing on aspects that have no meaning…

    Because Robertson wrote a book that focuses on lesbian argues towards the Otokoyaku, that doesn’t make her analysis accurate, which was by the way based on tabloids, gossip and angry with the Revue people.

    While I’m not saying that there are no lesbian desires, this is not the ONLY way nor the main way we fans experience the Revue.

    What irritated me in this article is the fact that, there are plenty of speculations on the Revue’s and/or the fan-base’s sexual orientation, and not a single world about their Art, their abilities on stage, their Hard Work, their Talents, the Quality of their productions! Not even the tag of Art is there.

    You posted the first Act of one of their productions (which is by the way prohibited, but it’s not my place to judge that, since you are not the one who uploaded the show for public view) have you any idea how many buckets of sweat and tears these performers seed to bring this production to life? Have you any idea how much money was spent to ensure the highest of quality(sets, costumes, copyrights)? Have you any idea how many people worked for this? Do you know how many hours they worked? How much lack of sleep they had?

    THIS is what a Takarazuka fan cares about. If Robertson translates the love and care of that kind as a way for fans to get in the star’s pants, then I rest my case here…

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This entry was posted on March 22, 2013 by in Entertainment and tagged , , , .
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