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FEATURE: Takarazuka troupe give performance of 'The Rose of Versailles'.

TAKARAZUKA, Japan, March 20 Kyodo

''The Rose of Versailles,'' a production about the French Revolution that set off a boom when it debuted in 1974, is replayed by Takarazuka Revue Company's all-woman troupe before audiences that include members of the baby boomer generation in Japan.

The presentation being made in Takarazuka city, Hyogo Prefecture, and Tokyo is based on a narrative comic strip by Riyoko Ikeda, 58. Since its initial stage run, it has become a hit, attracting about 4 million people to performances over the years since.

Tickets for the current performances that started late last month -- the first in five years -- sold out shortly after going on sale.

''The Rose of Versailles'' is made up of two tales against the background of the French Revolution involving Queen Marie-Antoinette's illicit love affair with Fersen, a peer, and a love story between a beautiful woman dressed as a man who calls herself Oscar and her childhood friend Andre.

The central point of the account is the decision Oscar made to dedicate herself to the revolution.

Hikaru Asami, the star of the ''Yuki'' (Snow) group of the revue, described Oscar, who she portrays, as someone who ''shows her weakness as a human being but honestly suffers distress.''

Referring to her lines in a part in which Oscar commits herself to the revolution and declares ''even women have the right to live and state their contention,'' Asami said that every time she speaks the lines she feels ''I say them now as a representative of women.''

''The Rose of Versailles'' transcends time, brilliantly mirroring the aspirations and wishes of women in varied circumstances. The sensation it caused in Japan in the 1970s coincided with the time when many baby boomers got married.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research said many young couples tied the knot in arranged marriages until the first part of the 1960s. But marriages based on love accounted for 61.5 percent in the first half of the 1970s compared with arranged marriages, at 33.1 percent.

Displaying a flushed face in front of the theater after watching the stage play, a 39-year-old woman who works for the Tokyo office of a foreign mass communications company said she was deeply moved by the character of Oscar.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the woman said she watched it for the first time since she saw it when she was in the second grade. Oscar made little impression on her then, but this time the woman was glued to the character in uniform.

She said Oscar was ''an ordinary woman who was in a quandary over love. Concealing everything about her behind the cover of a military uniform, she (devoted) her life to her ideal. I felt like telling her not to go that far.''

The woman resigned from a Japanese company in the Kansai area several years ago because her job was a sort restricted to regional districts and she thought she would be suffocated by the company's male chauvinistic culture.

She said that she no longer feels a sense of oppression like ''aren't you going marry yet'' or ''for being a woman (you say this or do that)'' that she sensed while she worked at the Japanese company.

Her preference for a boyfriend has also changed from a man who had a high-profile air about himself similar to Fersen to a person who has a generous heart and supports her from behind like Andre.

Writer Kaoru Tamaoka, 49, said that the reason she was captivated by Oscar was because her sister, who is 7 years older than her and in the baby boomer generation, who supported her husband as a homemaker.

She used to tell Tamaoka: ''I supported Japan's high economic growth by protecting our home.''

Ikeda started publishing ''The Rose of Versailles'' as a serial in a magazine in 1972 with a view to creating an image of a woman who could live according to her wishes.

''I received half the amount of money paid to comics drawn by male cartoonists and published in the same magazine,'' she said. When Ikeda asked the publisher the reason for the gap in pay, she was told that was nothing unusual.

''Once a woman got married,'' she quoted him as saying, ''she is supported by a man. It's natural for a man to get twice as much.''

She said she married a ''person I loved the most in my life when I was 47 years old. Because of that age I was not at the mercy of Eros and was united (to him) person-to-person. Spiritually, I became able to cease to be a woman after I encountered my husband. It's been 10 years and we are having a very happy married life.''
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Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Mar 20, 2006
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