Magazine article The New Yorker

Peach Boys

Magazine article The New Yorker

Peach Boys

Article excerpt

Peach Boys

Japan's loose-gendered Takarazuka Revue, at the Lincoln Center Festival.

The all-female troupe Takarazuka will perform "Chicago," followed by a stage spectacular, at the David H. Koch Theatre.

In 1913, Ichizo Kobayashi, the founder of Japan's Hankyu Railways, was looking for a ploy to get tourists to stay on his Osaka line all the way to the terminus, in the city of Takarazuka. He hit on the idea of starting in Takarazuka a theatre troupe like Kabuki--a travesty troupe, but in reverse, with women playing men. In 1914, the company put on its first show, "Peach Boy," about a heroic boy born from a peach. A century later, Takarazuka is the most popular theatrical enterprise in Japan, selling about two and a half million tickets a year. It has two theatres--one in Tokyo as well as the flagship house in Takarazuka--and dozens of elaborate, Vegas-worthy productions. The uncontested audience favorite is "The Rose of Versailles," about Oscar Francois de Jarjayes, a woman who dresses as a man and becomes a palace guard in order to protect her queen, Marie Antoinette. (This ends with an enthusiastic reenactment of the French Revolution.) But Takarazuka's repertory is quite eclectic, with shows based on everything from Japanese fairy tales to "The Brothers Karamazov."

All Takarazuka actresses are graduates of the company's school, where they spend two years in convent-like seclusion learning how to sing and dance. In their second year, they are divided into musumeyaku , who will take female roles, and otokoyaku , who will play male characters. …

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