Japan's all-woman Takarazuka Revue kicked off its third Taiwan tour in the capital Taipei on Saturday 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.
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.
The 39-member Star Troupe will stage 14 performances at the National Theater in Taipei from Saturday to Oct. 28, and six more at a venue in the southern city of Kaohsiung from 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 troupes.
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 in 2012 when she came to Taiwan for the first tour.
Koyanagi said she hopes their performance will win over more fans in Taiwan and entertain home audiences, referring to the troupe's final performance in Taipei which will be live-steamed to Japan.
The second part is a standard Takarazuka musical number called "Killer Rouge," in which Kurenai takes center stage.
In the show, troupe 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.
In the flamboyant grand finale, Kurenai and other leading members wearing huge plume back pieces and feathered headdresses sing and dance on a stage that has a massive staircase.
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 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 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 2.7 million Japanese each year, entertaining families through good times and bad for nearly a century.
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.