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Takarazuka Will Stun Beijingers
Beijingers better get ready for a spectacular show. The all-female Takarazuka Revue Co, which has delighted fans worldwide with gorgeous costumes, dazzling lights, pretty performers and spectacular dances, is returning to Beijing.

The company last appeared in the capital in 1999.

Performances will be held at Century Theatre beginning today. The show closes on September 22.

In the first half of each show, audiences will see the company's new production Butterfly Lovers directed by company president Shingi Ueda.

The show is based on the ancient Chinese love tragedy involving Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, which has inspired various performances in various mediums throughout the world.

Although Takarazuka combines theatrical elements from Chinese classics with Western music, the shows remain popular in Japan.

"The Takarazuka version is expected to bring the old story something fresh with Japanese styles," Ueda said.

Koju Tatsuki and Nagisa Aki will play Liang and Zhu.

"Last week, our performances in Shanghai won much acclaim. I hope Beijing's audiences will also like us," Tatsuki said.

The show's second half features Southern Cross, a Caribbean-influenced song-and-dance performance. Tatsuki and Dan Rei play the lead roles.

Musical revues in Japan date back to 1910, when all-female troupes were similar to French revues.

Takarazuka was founded in 1913 by Kobayashi Ichizo, president of Hankyu Railways, to boost travel on the line and business in the city of Takarazuka.

The troupe took its name from the city.

Takarazuka's performances typically consist of musical adaptations of fairy tales, and various song-and-dance numbers. Women play all roles.

Love scenes that were implied rather than acted out were deemed more or less acceptable in Japan, which until recently frowned on kissing in public.

In Japan's male-dominated history, otokoyaku, or actresses who play male roles, represented a vicarious way for young women to live out fantasies of strength and power.

But audiences really wanted romance -- pure, old-fashioned, fairy-tale romance.

Takarazuka gives them what they want: Clear-cut stories of romance and spectacle, but lacking crude behavior and passion.

Thousands of teen girls apply each year to join the company. Only 40 or 50 new students are admitted to Takarazuka's school.

These students, during the two-year program, study acting, singing, dancing and music.

The students after the first year choose whether to perform as an otokoyaku or musumeyaku (female role).

The students are placed with one of the company's six troupes after their graduation.

Takarazuka's six troupes are: Flower, Moon, Star, Snow, Cosmos and Special Course. Each troupe has about 80 members.

Each troupe performs one run in Takarazuka and in Tokyo each year. They play at theatres throughout the world during the rest of the year.

The Moon troupe visited Beijing in 1999. This time, the 36-member Star troupe is in China. They are joined by four members of the Special Course troupe.

(China Daily September 20, 2002)

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