Takarazuke Makes Taipei Debut

Japan’s famed all-female musical stage company, Takarazuka, finished a two-week run in Taipei on April 14. It was the first time the theater company played Taiwan, a former Japanese colony, since it was founded 99 years ago.

All the performances at the 24,000-seat National Theater were sold out.

The idea, according to director Daisuke Fujii in an interview with Kyodo news service, was simple: to dazzle the audience.

Takarazuka is an institution in Japan. Headquartered in Takarazuka City, just south of Osaka, it also runs a large theater in the heart of Tokyo. It sells abot 2.5 million tickets a year and in 2011 made about 25 billion yen ($252 million).

The real stars of the troupe are its “male” leads, meaning female actors who have been trained to mimic the gait and vocal timbre of men. It is precisely the opposite of kabuki, in which all characters are played by men.

Takarazuka takes its material from all sources. Many of its musicals, always performed in Japanese, are taken from French literature. And one of its most popular plays is an adaptation, with original songs, of  “Gone With the Wind.”

Since its first overseas tour in 1938, Takarazuka has performed 24 times in 17 countries. The trip to Taiwan was planned and executed by the company, including marketing, promotion and even booking the theater.

Because Japan’s population is shrinking, the troupe believes it has to cultivate the Asian market if it wants to enjoy any growth.