Review of Me and My Girl(Moon 2008)
(Originally written July 2008)
Review of Me and My Girl - Live on 7-5-08
I saw "Me and My Girl" just over two weeks ago live in Tokyo, the day before the last day of the run. I've since bought the DVD of the show, but haven't watched it yet, so this is 100% a live show review. The version I saw featured Shirosaki Ai as Jacqueline, while the DVD has Asumi Rio. I may later do a DVD review, if I feel like it. :)
"Me and My Girl" is a popular British musical, that Takarazuka has now performed four times, starting in 1987. It tells the story of Bill (Sena Jun), a working class young man who turns out to be the long lost heir to the Hareford earldom. Naturally, his lower class ways are shocking to his cultured relations - particularly his aunt Maria (Izumo Aya), who takes on the difficult job of teaching propriety to the exuberant Bill - but not
nearly as shocking as the fact that he's brought his working class girlfriend Sally (Ayano Kanami) along with him. In short: Hijinks ensue. :)
I've loved this play ever since first seeing the 1995 Amami Yuuki/Asano Kayo version several years ago. I'd actually really like to see it in English someday, as I love the English soundtrack I have. :) The plotline of the show isn't very heavy, but its theme really appeals to me: Sally and Bill have an established relationship, and though they have troubles during the course of the show, Bill is completely single-minded throughout: He KNOWS what he wants, and that's Sally. He's never lead astray by riches or scantily-clad debutantes. So many plays are about angst-angst-do-i-love-them-or-not-angst-angst, that it's refreshing seeing something a bit different. And well, as I have the English CD, I guess you've assumed I like the music. This show has many really fun numbers, not just "Lambeth Walk" and "Leaning on a Lampost" but others like "The Family Solicitor" and "The Sun Has Got His Hat On". And I think "Take it On the Chin" makes an admirable life anthem. :)
Since I liked the Amami/Asano version *so* much, I was a bit afraid I wouldn't like this one, but there was no need to worry. The new version is different - not so much the staging, as the actresses - but the current cast is also very talented and exuberant, and even though this was the very end of the second run of the show, had a huge amount of energy and seemed to be having great fun. Not just the actresses with big parts, but everyone - down to an otokoyaku playing a gardener, who did her own little skit in the background, pretending to clip a hedge wrong, looking around to see if anyone noticed, and trying to hide her misdeed. These are the little bits I always miss on the DVDs... That and, of course, having the actors interact with the audience - like in Lambeth Walk, where not only did the performers dance out into the first floor, but a bunch of underclassmen came out on the second floor and danced in the aisle (the second floor seats don't usually get much love, so this was a nice touch...)
Opinions on the actors:
Sena Jun (Bill): Her expressions were so cute and earnest, and she looked like she was having so much fun - but it was obvious how much work really had to go into this role, which is actually pretty demanding, with its tap dance and physical humor. Sena had to make stunts like flipping over the couch and getting her hat to land on her head look easy - and if she missed, she had to react quickly to keep the audience laughing (she made it on the day I saw the show :) ). Sena is a great star for western comedic musicals (as we've seen before in Ernest in Love), as she has great comedic timing, but can also sing and dance wonderfully. And of course, her chemistry with Ayano was great, making Bill's love for Sally totally believable.
Ayano Kanami (Sally): I'm sad she retired, but I can understand why she decided to go out with this show: This is such a high point to leave on, and the chances of her getting another role half as enjoyable were pretty slim. :/ I already mentioned her chemistry with Sena, so I don't need to again, but really Sally's character is the deeper of the two. Bill is a fun role, and Sally has fun bits too - the tap dancing, the trying to swipe tableware from the dining room - but hers is really the character that has the hardest emotional journey: Sally knows that she's out-of-place, and while she wants to be with Bill, she also wants whats best for him. Ayano was always able to express Sally's dilemma beautifully, but without ever detracting from the fun of the play. She'll be sorely missed. :(
Izumo Aya (Maria): Talk about sorely missed! Top stars retire, it's expected, so I had kind of mentally prepared for someday losing Ayano. But Izumo Aya just *IS* Takarazuka. I was crushed when I found out she was leaving. I've heard complaints that she's been typecast, and that Maria is just another in the series of battle-axe type characters Izumo's done a lot of in recent years. But the beautiful thing about Izumo is that she *doesn't* just let the role become another stereotype. Her Maria was strong, and determined to have her own way, but she truly wants what's best for Bill and the family, and clearly had a gentle heart. This made the role both funny, where it needed to be funny (and Izumo is a master at ad libs!), but human in a way that made it believable when Maria has a change of heart.
Misa Noeru (Parchester): Played the family solicitor, who gets a number early in the play, and *attempts* to have a number throughout the play. She was FABULOUS, and cracked me up so many times. Aw, it's fun to see the senka ladies showing their stuff, rather than standing backstage playing kings or whatever...
Kiriya Hiromu (Sir John): A family friend who's been in love with Maria for years. It doesn't seem like an interesting role for the nibante at first, but Sir John gets a lot of stage time, and gets to play off both Bill and Sally a lot. Kiriya shines without fail in whatever role she's given, and this is yet another demonstration of her versatility.
Shirosaki Ai (Jacqueline): Gets two numbers as Jackie, a young lady anxious to drop her current beau for the rich Earl of Hareford. Two whole *entire* numbers without being top star - enough to make any musumeyaku dizzy. *sarcasm mode off* *mostly* Shirosaki Ai was fabulous, owning the stage in "Thinking of No One But Me", then strutting through "You Would If You Could" with a robe that would barely stay on, not to mention her fine dancing with Ryouga in "The Sun Has Got His Hat On." And can I just say how very, very nice it is that they gave this role to a musumeyaku? Well, at least half the time? I, er, rather like it when the *female* roles are played by the *female role* specialists. The otokoyaku just can't pull them off the same way - they're not comfortable: they don't move right and they're not trained to sing in the right range, both of which tend to give their performances an air of terrorized young men unexpectedly thrust into dresses and tossed onstage. Let the musumeyaku play the women - that's what they're there for. *end rant*
Ryouga Haruhi: I kind of know her from seeing her in a Cosmos troupe show many years ago, but haven't kept up with her at all. She's adorable as Gerald, Jackie's unfortunate weakling of a lover. He basically runs about the whole play trying to get Jackie to come back to him. Ryouga shared "Thinking of No One But Me" with Shirosaki as well as having the solo in "The Sun Has Got His Hat On." The rest of the time she was cute in the ensemble of confused Hareford guests.
Koshino Ryuu: Was visible as the Hareford butler, and had some laughs at her expense. I've always liked her, so I had to mention her. :)
Overall, it was a very enjoyable performance, and I'm so glad that, if Izumo and Ayano *HAD* to go, that they left with this fabulous, fun show.
As it's recently come up: I refuse to rate this version as compares to the 1995 Amami Yuuki version. They're both fabulous in their own ways. Just like no one can ever agree on which version of Elisabeth is the best - because no one version of Elisabeth *is* the best, just different versions touch different people in different ways. Anyone who's trying to decide which version to get should consider which actresses they like - you can get previews on the TCA site, not to mention the "wonders" of YouTube...