maria walewska

Of course I left the Le Cinque in Osaka, so this is based on dazed recollection from Monday. Plus usual disclaimer of not having much Japanese. And I can’t do cuts on mobile ^^’

General impression: Koike-S has been learning diligently from Kunze. The historical collage linked by emotional motives is familiar. He’s not quite there at pushing a theme yet, which made it very much a character study of Napoleon. And Presgurvic did a great job with the music - reason #29 I need the dvd is to identify all the French melodies he put in, because I kept going “I know this song!”

Staging goes for historic references all over, recreating rooms and costumes neatly. The Directoriat dresses in particular are to die for,  and Nene has like two dozen outfits. Sets revolve and flow smoothly, with good use of permanent arcades at both sides of the stage.

Because the story is framed too, by the tale the old Marmont tells the young Eaglet, Napoleon’s son who never knew his father. The youth (played with great grace by Tenju Mitsuki, when did she grow up?) is willing to talk to even the traitor to understand the story of his father, and Ema Naoki’s Marmont has layers that really make me wish for a script translation.

(Aside: through my own interests, historic connection between Napoleon and Poland - alas,  Maria Walewska didn’t make it into this show - and Jo Graham’s books, I’m familiar with a lot of the original people. Koike-S and Hoshigumi did their homework.)

The framing also allows for info dumps and scroll through,  so often the show is a series of pretty images while Ema Naoki Explains. I definitely wasn’t protesting. Pretty, pretty images :D

The show plays to Hoshigumi strengths - lots of characters, lots of ensemble scenes where people can come up with skits, moments of patent Hoshigumi crazy breaking the dramatic tension. High point of which was Napoleon showing off his tactical skills in a snowball fight.

Ah, Chie. On one hand she always was a powerhouse. On the other, she’s so confident now, full strength, effortless. And she uses it to explore: Napoleon has layers upon layers, darkness and fire, Corsican vengefulness and romance and industrious untiring determination. Not a typical hero at all: we follow him to the first fall, 1814, and darkness isn’t glossed over. I was really reminded of Tyrian.

Nene has my favourite type of Takarazuka role - starting off as a widow in desperate straits, finding her own strength, surprised by love, but very much finding out love doesn’t conquer all. Lots of fantastically meaty scenes and showing off her dancing skills.

Lots of other brilliant musumeyaku as well. Miho Keiko vs Nene is a sight to see. Otohana Yuri, of course,  and Otoha Minori is a lovely picture. Napoleon’s sisters function mostly as a pack, but very effectively. Kisaki Airi is a new face for me and she was a good Maria Louise, very young and conflicted and still falling for Chie because why wouldn’t you?

The Marshals were great, with special mention to Makaze for being a picture perfect Murat and a great chemistry with Chie. Beni has developed so much, and her inner conflict was good. Toki Irisu fits the rhythm well, but I was a bit disappointed Renta was just her otouto sidekick, without much opportunity to well, be Renta.

Coto gets special mention for best steal of show with a single song, as well as being fluffy and adorable. I want a Eugene keitai charm.

But that wasn’t where my opera glasses were. Because every time she was on stage I was watching Micchan, Micchan, Micchan.

Talleyrand is larger than life, as he should be, this man who lived through and meddled in a dozen regimes before dying in his own bed at the age of 84. And Micchan goes for the literal: my first impression, even before I recognised the Seal of Roses wig, was vampire.

There’s something preternatural in the way she moves. The limp is studied, cynical, dandyish. Every gesture grabs you by the throat. Every smirk makes you melt.

And then she opens her mouth. My only regret is that she and Chie only had one proper duet, because THOSE VOICES. Micchan can blow the roof off the theatre.
She sells the show,  pulling all the strings, moving all the pieces. Miki Chigusa is technically Fouche (and they skip the initial rivalry), but really Renfield to Micchan’s Dracula. With Itsuki Chihiro and Mishiro Ren joining in, Team Pragmatic is Micchan’s own boyband.

Micchan, darling. Please go be a top star somewhere so that your leads end up on dvd.

Other honourable mentions: Toa Reiya for sleaze, and joint Most Very Hoshigumi award for Ooki Makoto and whoever was playing Josephine’s servant. Because with all the drama this is still Hoshigumi and it cannot be serious all the time.

But it can be beautiful. I think my favourite moment is just before Napoleon’s abdication, this dance where everyone is moving away from him. Chie is desperate and heartbreaking and sells it 200%.

Sells out the show, in fact. At 8.20 - with tickets going on sale at 10 - I was eighth in the day ticket line at MURA, on a weekday. By the time they took pity on us and let us in, I lost count at over 100 people in that queue. Worth every moment in the cold, but also a reason why Chie’s not retiring (for all that this show would be absolutely perfect taidan). I hope they’re paying her what she’s worth.