Casino Royale -My Name’s Bond- is one of Takarazuka Revue’s performances that has been garnering a lot of attention of late. It’s one of the first shows that recently held a live stream on the Beyond LIVE platform on July 11, 2023, with the rebroadcast on June 26, 2023. The stream from Tokyo Takarazuka Theater in Tokyo also marked the last performance for top star, Makaze Suzuho, and final show of Casino Royale -My Name’s Bond- for the Takarazuka Revue’s Cosmos Troupe.
ABOUT TAKARAZUKA REVUE
Established in 1914, Takarazuka Revue is considered a counterpart to kabuki, consisting of an all female musical theater troupe performing both male and female roles. It is rich in history, based in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture in Japan (hence the name of the revue), with a dedicated fanbase.
The performance troupe was established by Kobayashi Ichizo, founder of the railroad company Hankyu Railway, who in an effort to draw foot traffic and business to Takarazuka, created this broadway-like attraction.
The Takarazuka Revue’s motto, “Modesty, Fairness, Grace” is apparent in each actresses’ refined performance. There are five troupes, totaling over 80 actresses: Flower, Moon, Snow, Star, and Cosmos. Each troupe has a leading pair of actresses: the otokoyaku, who plays the top male role, and the musumeyaku, who plays the top female role, making them the “top combi” or top combination. The other seasoned actresses, takarasienne, play the many supporting roles. The senka, or Superior Members, are the most experienced actresses who do not belong to any one troupe and perform special roles when their skills are called upon.
Performances are year-round at the famous Takarazuka Grand Theater or Tokyo Takarazuka Theater, and tickets can be purchased online, with most tickets starting at 3,500 yen.
Based on the novel by Ian Fleming’s “Casino Royale” and written and directed by Koike Shuichiro, the story takes place in 1968 in Paris, France during the Cold War. British secret intelligence department’s MI6 secret agent, James Bond (Makaze Suzuho, the otokoyaku), codename “007,” is requisitioned to investigate the Soviet agent, Le Chiffre (Serika Toa). His mission is to infiltrate the “Casino Royale” and prevent funding to Le Chiffre, who is in financial straits after embezzling his nightclub’s capital and needs to win a quick fortune at the casino to recuperate his losses.
In the backdrop of all this, Paris is in high-alert due to anti-establishment protests from students and workers calling for social change. It is there, per a chance encounter, Bond saves Delphine (Jun Hana, the musumeyaku), a female student, who was being chased by police. Little does Bond know that she is actually a princess and the next heir to the Romanov house, who holds the key, or rather, crown, to an immense fortune, which could support the movement.
Tensions rise when Delphine’s love interest, Michel Barrault (Sakuragi Minato) and leader of the movement, is swept up in a conspiracy involving the KGB and a love triangle ensues with cabaret singer Annabelle (Amairo Mineri).
Everything culminates and clashes at the lavish Royale-les-Eaux casino’s largest annual event, the “Night of Baccarat!”
Beyond LIVE is a full-scaled live streaming platform, which was a response to non-in person concerts during lockdown in 2020. The streaming service initially hosted concerts mostly for K-pop artists, and, aptly so, as the technology is owned by South Korean entertainment company SM Entertainment in partnership with Naver. For those who are unable to attend a live performance in Japan, Beyond LIVE streaming is a great alternative to experience the Takarazuka Revue remotely.
While the stage show was presented in Japanese, subtitles in English and other languages were readily available for viewers. This overcomes the well-documented hurdles of a live performance for those who are unfamiliar with the Japanese language and may find the story difficult to understand.
Thousands of viewers tuned in during the live stream and rebroadcast. One of the unique features of an online live-streamed show, which replicates the sense of community in an in-person setting, is seeing the chat and live reactions with fellow audience members.
The production was roughly 2 hours 40 minutes, including a 5 minute intermission and 20 minute parade. Beyond LIVE events can be streamed on up to 2 devices concurrently.
For those who have always wanted to attend a Takarazuka Revue performance, the live-streaming musical experience was an absolute treat, with the added bonus of being able to watch from the comfort of your own home.
Adopting a well-known IP such as James Bond is no easy feat, especially considering that Takarazuka Revue is often associated with the historic and rococo-style performances of the Rose of Versailles. Recently, more modern stories and adaptations of famous properties have kept this artform fresh, drawing in new fans for a new generation. Casino Royale is a story filled with intrigue, romance, betrayal, action, and adventure, centered on a familial and international power struggle. It pays homage to what a James Bond film and property is, without taking itself too seriously.
While caught up in literal cross-fires, the bubbling and loveable Michel Barrault, played by Sakuragi Minato, provided a much needed comedic relief during those tense encounters. Constantly unsure of her motives, the audience couldn’t help but root for the sultry and assertive songstress Annabel, played by Amairo Mineri. Serika Toa’s Le Chiffre was the quintessential Bond villain with prospects of grandeur and no remorse removing anyone who gets in their way. The righteous heroine Delphine, played by Jun Hana, was the epitome of grace, befitting a princess. And last, but not least, Makaze Suzuho rounded out the cast as James Bond, exuding the cool and suave secret agent that so many have come to adore. With so many players involved, who will come up on top? And, who will fall in love with whom?
Bittersweet as it is, this was Suzho’s final performance of her career with the company. Suzuho Makaze debuted in 2006 with the show Never Say Goodbye, rising to top star, otokoyaku status in 2018 and dozens of roles under her repertoire. It’s no wonder Suzuho Makaze is a top star, with her cool aura and charismatic allure that draws audience members in. With over 17 years in the industry, she has been a staple of the Takarazuka Revue. It was clear how emotional and teary-eyed the cast was during the final songs.
The music for Casino Royale is reminiscent of the late 60s/early 70s, when the story takes place: a retro vibe, strong in percussion, trumpets, enveloped by strings of classic films of the time. The musical number for the main characters highlighted the strengths of each actress from the troupe, while expanding the character’s thoughts and motives. Likened to broadway musicals, the songs often either moved the story along, described the background of the story, or what the characters were feeling.
In lieu of an encore familiar at most concerts, it is customary to conclude the show with a Las Vegas-style “parade,” where the star performers come out and perform one last time with the otokoyaku and musumeyaku having their own solos. The actresses descend the famous Grand Staircase in extravagantly jeweled costumes and a “shan-shan,” a decorative object with ribbons attached, in hand. The main cast emerge in glamorous feathered, peacock-style backing with a final song to wrap up the musical.
As the curtains drew to a close, the claps and cheers of ovation could not be easily forgotten. Looking at fan comments during and after the show, there is a feel of deep rooted appreciation, particularly for Suzoho Makaze’s final performance.
Casino Royale is a light-hearted affair that is an easy introduction into the world of Takarazuka Revue. The show is an art medium inherently rooted in Japanese traditions and uniquely part of Japanese pop culture. The elaborate sets, costumes, dancing, choreography, music, and singing is very distinct to the novelty of Takarazuka Revue. It’s something that, not too long ago, could only be experienced in-person, but now and, hopefully, continuing forward, is something that international fans can experience live in streaming format.
While there are presently no news on whether or not the Beyond LIVE VOD of the last performance will become available at a later date, an earlier recorded show of Casino Royale -My Name’s Bond- are available for purchase on Blu-ray, DVD, and CD here, along with other commemorative goods.
Official Website (EN): https://kageki.hankyu.co.jp/english/index.html
Official Website (JP): https://kageki.hankyu.co.jp/index.html