Day 18 – 彼女は「An officer and a gentleman」かどうか信じられない

I can’t believe whether or not she is “An Officer and a Gentleman

…yes I decided to see the revue!

Getting very used to the train system,  made it to Takarazuka station this morning by 9am. The Takurazuka Grand Theatre has an extensive english website with lots of information…BUT…the Japanese website has extra very valuable information,  if you queue on the day of the performance you can get tickets for the back row for only 2000 yen (about $22). They don’t mention that anywhere in English…not even in Lonely Planet,  huh!

I turn up to see a queue of over 50 women (and a few men)…hmmm….I ask the girl at the back of the queue in my broken japanese

この列は当日の一番安くて、一番奥の席のために? “Is this the queue for the last minute really cheap tickets right at the back of the theatre?”

Yes, it is…I say that there are an awful lot of people in the queue, is there any chance of getting a ticket…

チャンスがある?

Yes, she assures me that there is, the queue will get much longer than it is now, but since not everyone is buying a cheap ticket, many will still pay full price for seats further forward. Suddenly there is gasps and screams and giggles, I think maybe the doors have opened for the tickets,  but two women walk passed…

有名な人でしょう I suppose they are famous ロクスタルみたい like rock stars?

The girl next to me agrees. A few moments later some more women enter, but no-one reacts

スタフでしょう I suppose they are the staff?

When I get to the front of the queue there are still about half-a-dozen cheap seats left.

Now I have over 5 hours to fill in…so it is back to

Kobe

but this time I go to Shin-Kobe station which is on the mountain side rather than the ocean side and catch the sky-cable to the top of the mountain.

Here are some views…

Notice the three skyscrapers,  the interesting one on the right is the Crowne Plaza Hotel (more about it later)

Okay, if you are used to the idea that every available piece of flat land as far as the eye can see…is covered in office buildings, then I guess this might be considered beautiful, by some!

The restaurant at the top of the mountain specialises in HERBS, and if you walk back down the mountain you go past the glasshouses and a variety of herb gardens from different parts of the world…hmmm, I think I’ll be lazy today and catch the gondola back down…(just as well, given that I stopped for lunch…I would have been late back to the theatre). I was also luck enough to watch a free musical concert at the top of the mountain…very young children playing various instrumentsOne kid played the theme from Super-Mario Bros.

Most surprising is this dam, that is located quite close to the TOP of the mountain

…I’m sure they are usually further down, this other structure must be a secondary dam, in case the first fails

…if it were to fail, it would flood the shinkansen station!!!

I decide to go back towards Osaka for lunch (so I am closer to my theatre) but as I walk back to the shinkansen, I see this ad for a fixed price 4-course lunch (about $25) on the TOP floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel!!!

In the lobby is this interesting Xmas display

Here is what I ate for lunch…Organic green salad with seafood saffron flavourTurnip soup  (3 different types of bread and dipping olive oil)Spaghetti with sea-urchin

Dessert and coffee

and the view…not badIf all of Kobe looked like this little enclave nestled against the mountain, then yes it would be superb.

Okay about the performance

The Takurazuka peformance of “An Officer and a Gentleman”

I’m sitting next to the girl I was chatting to in the queue earlier that morning, her name is Fumiko. I look at the audience, the very, very young girl sitting on the other side of me is writing a fan letter to one of the cast, but her knowledge of kanji is not very strong so she keeps asking her mother what the correct character is…her mother, I notice is using the auto-spell feature on her mobile phone to tell her daughter which kanji are correct…she has a set of coloured pencils and decorates (virtually illuminates) each line in a different colour.

Wasn’t sure what kind of crowd to expect…over half the audience are high school girls in uniforms…many are in the $35 seats nearby…but many are also sitting in the $150 seats.  Lots of rich looking couples, and so far I am the only westerner in the building! I ask Fumiko if the schoolgirls are rich and from private schools,  yes of course she says..but she also adds some are here on school excursions!

Before the main show there is a 40 min variety show with the theme of leaves and the four seasons…anywhere else it the world this show in itself would be a main attraction…it showcased ALL the cast (about 78 women..I counted the photos in the program guide!)

The best bit of the pre-show was a Kabuki style love story (but sung in modern simple japanese) of a prince who steals a princess away from an evil lord, who sends a group of ninja to hunt him down…you are so caught up in the colour, costumes, light and singing that you don’t even notice how the background scenery changes from the interior of a castle to the surface of a lake with the girl aboard a boat that appears to magically float across the stage…other parts of the pre-show resemble the Ziegfeld Follies with dozen of geisha in kimonos holding umbrellas and singing and dancing in unison,  magically the colours of the costumes change from autumn, through winter to spring…the special effects are dazzling…and the voices of the women that sing the male samurai parts are to die for…deep and resounding through the theatre.

The western-style play itself is fantastic and because every syllable is pronounced separately when sung, I can actually pick out every word…and so I understand probably 85% of what is said…it starts in a seedy bar with pole dancing girls and drunken soldiers, but then  moves to a miltary camp.  For those who don’t know the story,  a group of young cadets who want to be jet pilots must make it through a gruelling 13 week boot camp run by Sekisui Naval Aviation Officer Candidate School under the whip of the cruel Sergeant Foley without being distracted by the girls who work at the nearby paper mill.

It’s a Sondheim meets Lloyd-Weber meets Gerswhin style musical and there is also a lot of humour…the scene where the cadets are doing calisthenics is performed to the Can-Can, but they actually do calisthenics not can-can.  It’s not all humour, there is a lot of emotion thrown in too…I am actually in tears when near the end one cadet kills himself, the girl who was to marry him changes her mind because he has failed the bootcamp and she won’t marry someone who is not an officer.

When the story ends, I think that the cast are going to come out and take a bow, but what actually happens is that they recap the songs and major characters, but this time instead of being in miltary costume, they come back on stage in glitzy cabaret style clothes (sequins and diamantis everywhere).

First all the female characters come out and they do a real can-can,  then all the male characters (remember they are actually ALL women) come out dressed in latin-american dance clothes and perform passo-doble,  then the various principals recap their love scenes and main songs, re-performing them in a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers style…at one point a giant jet plane descends from the ceiling,  and the dead cadet emerges from a hole in the stage re-united with his love.

The very final song and dance showcases the humour for which this theatre is known, it is to the tune of the star spangled banner with the US flag in the background…the ENTIRE cast appear in pure white miltary uniforms slightly adjusted to look like latin dance outfits,  the lead (“male-character”) however apperars in silver with a miltary/kabuki/liberace type outfit that makes the host of Iron Chef look seriously underdressed while a giant mirror ball descends from the ceiling. You had to see it to believe it….. the ausience are roaring for more!

I ask Fumiko,  was it all glitzy like this, when they performed Hemingway and Onegin,  she says yes,  they even did Dostoyevsky in this style, and Genji Monogatari too!

I find the Genji performance on DVD in the souvenir store…the price tag would feed a small family, but hey…I doubt I’ll find it on ebay!

I’m definitely going to see the show in Tokyo next week too! I might even get the expensive seats!

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