So this week’s victim was Yukigumi’s Versailles no Bara – Andre to Oscar, performed in 1989 and making it the oldest complete show I’ve ever watched. Yay fun.
To be honest, sometimes I wonder why I keep subjecting myself to BeruBara. Sorgumi’s 2001 performance was only the second full Zuka show I ever watched, and I’ll admit that I fell in love with it. I also had no complaints with Hoshi’s 2001 version. But, let’s face it…this really is one of Zuka’s cheesiest shows. But they keep performing it! And I keep watching it! Why is this???
It was this performance that finally answered this question. BeruBara is a very old and popular play, and most ‘siennes seem to consider it an honor to star in it. (Didn’t Wataru claim that playing Fersen was one of the best ways she could think of to end her career or something?) Anyways, each time it gets cycled through the troupes, rabid fangirls like myself let out many high-pitched squees because (insert favorite ‘sienne’s name here) is playing Oscar, Andre or Fersen! And sometimes we can even buy the exact DVDs we want with our ‘siennes playing our favorite roles! (Yay BeruBara digests.) And because we keep squeeing and buying the DVDs, the company keeps putting on the show, and thus the cycle continues. In this particular case, (insert favorite sienne’s name here) was Ichiro Maki, my latest obsession, and she was playing Oscar. I had noooo idea who any of the other ‘siennes were (except Hoshihara Misao, thank heavens) so I was basically watching this for some Hot Cheekbones Action. I was not disappointed. Still, I must admit that this was a very…interesting rendition of BeruBara.
I was under the impression that there were only two arcs for the show – Marie Antoinette and Fersen, and Oscar and Andre. I obviously assumed this version was of the second variety. However, it seems that there is, in fact, a third version, which is Andre and Oscar. While I think I still prefer the Oscar and Andre version best, I must admit that this had it’s perks, the largest being that a good chunk of the plot focused on Rosalie, the young girl who had been serving Oscar and her family for many years. I’ve always really loved this character, and the amount of time they spent developing it really made me happy. Her history seemed to go against some of the things presented in the other two versions, but we’ll forgive that.
Less forgivable, perhaps, are the 80s-style wigs and the massive amount of blue eye-shadow, but I’ll try to get past even that…..
A summary of the show can be found here, but in some cases my version doesn’t seem to follow the program, so I’ll highlight that as best I can. I’ll also focus in on the Rosalie plot, since that’s basically the big difference between this version and the Oscar/Andre version.
The show has, without a doubt, one of the most amusing beginnings, which consists of Rosalie and Oscar’s nanny attempting to find Oscar, in order to dress her for Marie Antoinette’s birthday celebration that night. Andre enters and laughs his head off when he sees the frilly pink gown Oscar is expected to wear. He suggests that Rosalie make use of it instead, as she is more likely to get enjoyment out of it. Surprised but honored, Rosalie agrees. At this point, we switch into a nice little flashback to Rosalie’s past, which is shrouded in mystery. Her mother was killed many years ago when an aristocrat’s carriage ran her over, and just before dying, she confessed that she was not Rosalie’s real mother. Rosalie was in fact the daughter of a noble family, and had been raised with her current family to conceal her true origins. The woman died before revealing Rosalie’s true parents, however, leaving Rosalie confused and alone. Andre promises to help Rosalie discover her true mother someday, and they depart for the ball.
In between the singing and the dancing and the politicking, the main event of the ball is the discussion of Marie Antoinette and Fersen, who are openly lovers. One of the loudest critics is Lady Polignak, along with her lady-in-waiting, Jeanne, whom we recognize from the previous flashback as Rosalie’s estranged sister. During the ball, we get the familiar scene of Oscar pleading with Fersen to return to
A lot of the following scenes are very close to the Oscar/Andre version, so I won’t bore you with them, as most people know the story. However, the plot does thicken around Rosalie and her family. Jeanne attacked herself to lady Polignak in order to take revenge against aristocrats for the death of her mother. I’m a little confused about exactly what happens, but I believe Jeanne tells Lady Polignak lies or exaggerations about Oscar and how she is besmirching her reputation or ruining her chances for advancement within the court. In any event, Lady Polignak challenges Oscar to a duel for revenge for these slights, and Oscar is forced to accept. Andre, however, learns of the duel and takes Oscar’s place without telling her. Instead of facing Lady Polignak’s champion, however, he is ambushed by Jeanne and several of her guards. This is the fight during which Andre is blinded. Jeanne is eventually confronted and arrested, and Lady Polignak is proved innocent, because she truly did know nothing of the trick. It is also discovered that Lady Polignak was the one whose carriage killed Rosalie and Jeanne’s adopted mother, but in a twist of fate, is revealed to be their true birth mother. Rosalie refuses to accept this, however.
The second half of the show focuses mostly on Oscar and Andre, and includes most of my favorite scenes from the other two arcs – Oscar’s forced betrothal, Andre’s attempt at poisoning himself and Oscar so no one else would have her, and, of course, the “love” scene, culminating with a very heartfelt rendition of the annoyingly catching “Ai-Ai-Ai” song. The only major addition is the resolution of Rosalie’s dilemma. She had previously become close friends with a young girl named Charlotte, who I believe it Lady Polignak’s daughter. After the truth of Rosalie’s parentage came out, the one thing she was happy about was that she and Charlotte were truly sisters. Unfortunately,
The show, of course, then continues with Oscar and Andre’s resolution to fight for the peasants of
All in all, it was a decent version of the show, but, as I was mainly watching it for Ichiro, I think I would have preferred the Oscar/Andre version, because she would have gotten more screen time. Still, I can’t really complain from what I saw. It was really hard to judge her acting, because everyone was extremely over-acting, but she was definitely a worthy Oscar. I still claim she has an amazing voice, and her angst solo after rejecting her promised suitor in order to fight for
Mori Keaki as Andre was…all right. The wig was not as flattering as it could have been, and for some reason that really kept distracting me. I can’t really put my finger on what it was about her that I didn’t like, except that there were times her performance just seemed off. She was very passionate and sung extremely well, but her acting was just soooo over-dramatic. Again, this is BeruBara, but really, Mizu didn’t have that problem, and as she’s my basis for comparison, there you have it. I also didn’t think she had the best chemistry with Ichiro. Some scenes were extremely well done – the poison scene, the love scene – but others, such as helping drink!Oscar in the garden, were lacking. I will say that she angsted very well, especially after finding out about Oscar’s engagement. Her discussion with Fersen about Oscar’s love, and her subsequent promise to protect Oscar in Fersen’s place, was also very moving. Her death scene was also no more cheesy than anyone else's. I guess she just wasn’t quite up to my standards for some reason.
Shion Yuu was an excellent Fersen. Not up to Wao’s level, perhaps, but certainly as good as Aran Kei’s performance in Hoshi’s version. Unfortunately, I severely disliked Nishina Yuri as Marie Antoinette, so I couldn’t feel much connection between the two characters. Her voice was horribly nasally, she was over-dramatic to the point of simply being annoying, and she was completely ineffectual at commanding the stage in the way she should. This is really a shame, because I do love Antoinette and Fersen together, and I would have liked to see how they played out. Luckily, Shion Yuu had wonderful chemistry with Oscar and Andre, as well as a very lovely voice, so at least I could enjoy her performance.
As I mentioned before, the best surprise of the show was the large part Rosalie played in the plot, and Ayu Yuki gave an excellent performance. I am very upset that she doesn’t have a page on the TakaWiki, because I would love to look her up and try to catch her in other performances. She was timid and shy in the beginning, but also fiercely devoted to Oscar and Andre. Her friendship with
Hokuto Hikaru was, for the most part, a good choice for Lady Polignak. Of course, I kept thinking how wonderful Izumo Aya would fit the role, but perhaps this was one of her precursors. She was clearly a vain and selfish woman, but one who didn’t want anyone to truly be hurt. Her grief at
One of my biggest complaints - Saotome Sachi as Jeanne. She was an excellent actress and played the part flawlessly, but dear God in heaven her Evil Shoujo Woman Laugh was soooooo annoying!!!!!
The revue, I am sorry to say, was mostly horrible. I really liked Shion Yuu’s solo, but that was about it. They dressed poor Ichiro up in the ugliest dress with the most HOPRRID blonde wig imaginable for her dance with Mori Keaki. I have never cringed so much when Ichiro was on stage, and I hope I never do again. Mori Keaki had a nice dance number, but she had the most God-awful sparkly gold jumpsuit with huge bell-bottoms. Sorry, dear, but John Travolta just called, and he wants his outfit back ^^;;
All in all, this is probably my least favorite of the BeruBara’s I’ve seen, but actresses themselves were (generally) not at fault. I think it’s just an over-the-top show at the end of a really over-the-top decade, and that’s what we ended up with. Still, I’m glad I watched it for Ichiro alone, and I really, really can’t stress enough how much I loved the focus on Rosalie. In that respect, I highly recommend the show. And, of course, it’s worth it for all the BeruBara fanatics that I know are on my f-list ^_~
Just do try to ignore the blue eye-shadow….
Ichiro as Angsty!Oscar
Ayu Yuki as a really excellent Rosalie
The Obligatory Picture of Oscar and Andre During "Ai Areba Koso" Which Must Accompany All Mention of BeruBara.