Kabuki ABC (34)

By Shiozaki, Junichiro | The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan), August 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Kabuki ABC (34)


Shiozaki, Junichiro, The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)


This month's plays at the Kabukiza theater in Tokyo will be staged under a three-program system, unlike the usual pattern of a matinee and evening show. The programs are shorter and less expensive than usual, so I recommend that people who have never seen kabuki take this opportunity.

The midsummer show is titled "Noryo Kabuki" (cool summer kabuki). Each year, it features popular young kabuki actors because the masters usually take a rest this month.

This has worked well to attract young fans. Until a decade or so ago, kabuki shows in sweltering August and frosty February were considered to have small audiences. I feel the recent popularity of the August show, which brings many enthusiastic fans to the theater, is a world away from the past.

The midsummer kabuki show was launched in 1990 by Nakamura Kanzaburo XVIII (then Nakamura Kankuro) and Bando Mitsugoro X (Bando Yasosuke), who were popular young stars at that time.

Until then, summer shows at the Kabukiza featured popular songs and programs unrelated to kabuki. This is because summer kabuki performances did not attract people.

Kanzaburo and Mitsugoro, who have both since passed away, made the most of the kabuki low season by venturing to highlight young actors and unconventional new stage pieces. The two actors performed important roles from the classical repertoire that were not given to young actors like them during regular shows.

By diligently continuing with this challenge, they gradually acquired expertise and eventually played a major role in starting a kabuki boom. Their great contribution is still remembered.

This summer, the show will be led by Nakamura Senjaku, who frequently performed with Kanzaburo. Senjaku ardently desires to inherit the deceased actors' initiative for taking on challenges. He said he feels a great responsibility; as a manifestation of his strong will, he will perform in all three programs.

Senjaku is a key member of the Nakamura Ganjiro family, which maintains the traditions of the Kamigata kabuki style that developed in the Osaka and Kyoto region.

He is particularly enthusiastic about performing in "Komochi Yamamba," a masterpiece of classic kabuki that serves as the opening piece of this show. …

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