Long Review of Naked CityWritten: July 2005
(Not related to movie or TV show of same name, as far as I can tell)
Recorded 6/4/2004 at the Takarazuka Bow Hall Theater
Featuring (Some romanizations are guesses):
Ayabuki Mao: Billy "The Famous" Fog, a photographer
Touno Asuka: Daisy Miller, a movie actress
Itsuki Chihiro: Mike Binder, a gangster
Itsumine Aki: Deenia Rosa, a gossip-rag publisher
Rika Masumi: Alicia, Billy's stepmother
Sachimi Anna: Madam Paradise, owner of "Dancing To Night" troupe
Takashou Mizuki: Ike, Billy's stepbrother
Yabuki Shou: William Wilson, a gangster boss & Daisy's sugar-daddy
Aine Harei: Nicholai Daji, a missing person
Misuzu Aki: Bernard Stein, a gossip-rag flunky
Kashiro Kiho: Cathy Leeman, Billy's Girl, a dancer in "Dancing To Night"
1950's. Billy "The Famous" is the most infamous muck-raking photographer in New York. But when he takes a picture of popular movie star Daisy Miller entering a swank restaurant with mob-boss William Wilson, he gets more than he bargained for. The next day, Daisy herself shows up at the paper where he works - and she has a job offer for him: find the man in the photograph she provides, with no other information than his name: Nicholai Daji.
Now, as I'm a fan of both Yumiko (Ayabuki) and Asuka, it's natural that I enjoyed this. But what really impressed me was how well it was written. The play held together like a piece of film noir, with the plot moving along at a pace that left the initial mystery behind before we'd even reached intermission. Better yet, the extensive string of characters - introduced at the steady-clip that's standard for original Takarazuka pieces - all came into play in the resolution, so that none seemed to be there just to provide someone "stage time". Music and choreography were spiffy, very "jazz age" - I really wondered why they set this in the 50's, rather than a little earlier in prime "Noir" era.
Now, I do always have to give the positives and the negatives, and there were two minor nit-picky things that bothered me. First, Billy's semi-girlfriend Cathy was about as flat as a character could be. Typical "Sweet Young Girl in Love with the Hero" - just flitted on stage occasionally and sighed over Billy. Yech. Second, some racial stereotyping when our hero wanders into "Spanish Harlem" and talks to some beggars on the street. Double yech. But these were minor concerns and the play was overall so well-done that I'm willing to overlook them.
My usual brief actor opinions:
Ayabuki Mao: You know, she's starting to remind me of Aika Mire: Great versatility as an actor, but lurking underneath there's an air of good-humor that never goes away. Billy was a seen-it-all-before sort of character, not an "earnest young photographer trying to make it in the big city" sort, and she pulled it off with aplomb, yet even in his grumpiest moments, you couldn't help feeling that he was... nice.
My favorite "fangirl" moments were in the finale. She was flirting with the camera like crazy, especially during her couple-dance with Asuka. At one point, she's pulled Asuka right against her, but looks straight into the camera and winks. Saucy! Then there was at the bows, with her trying to keep her smile under control: "Must... maintain... manly... gritty... expression..." Luckily, she lost the battle. :)
Toono Asuka: My babies are all grown up <sniffle> Why, it seems like it was just yesterday I was listening to Asuka screech her way through "Kohaku Ame/Cocktail" (Actually, that WAS yesterday...) Definitely been working on her singing - I'd say she's now one of the better musumeyaku singers. It was cool seeing her do a glamorous/tragic heroine sort of role. She has a "young girl" sort of face, but gets the right attitude to do an elegant part. She's gonna make a great top-star soon.
Yabuki Shou: Rocks. You give her a slightly-sleazy, intimidating male character, and she'll deliver. The ladies doing the "character" roles are the ones with serious talent!
To be honest, although everyone else did a good job, no one else was so outstanding that I feel like I need to single them out. Partly, this is because there's so many characters that most of them don't get a lot of stage time. Misuzu Aki, as Bernard, had a sort of "sidekick" character, and probably had the fourth biggest part, but I honestly didn't feel like she brought anything special to her interpretation. Just your standard "Goofy Guy to Follow the Hero Around." (IMHO, of course.)
To sum up: Nicely done!