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June Grand Kabuki, Matinee

SHIN USUYUKI MONOGATARI (The Tale of Princess Usuyuki)
Most of the matinee program consists of a full-length production of a kabuki epic. This play, adapted from the Bunraku puppet theater, combines the best of kabuki -- romance, colorful spectacle and tragedy. With its numerous good roles, a large gathering of popular and accomplished actors are necessary to stage it. Rarely performed, when this play appears, it is always an event
    Shin-Kiyomizu Temple
Saemon (Kinnosuke), the eldest son of the Sonobe family and Princesss Usuyuki (Shibajaku), the daughter of the Saizaki family, fall in love after glimpsing one another under the cherry blossoms of Kiyomizu temple and are brought together by their servants. The villain Daizen (Tomijuro) places a curse on a sword presented to the temple by Saemon. By framing the couple, he hopes to bring destroy their families so they cannot hinder his effort to take over the country. Saemon's servant Tsumahei (Somegoro) almost defeats this plan and is attacked by Daizen's henchmen in a spectacular fight scene with water buckets.
    The Saizaki Residence
Saemon and Princess Usuyuki are charged with treason. Mimbu (Tomijuro) comes to investigate the two, and although they maintain their innocence, Daizen is able to turn the evidence against them. The compassionate Mimbu gives them a temporary reprieve, but still, must place them under house arrest, each at the house of the other's family, with Saemon at the Saizaki residence and Princess Usuyuki at the Sonobe residence.
    The Sonobe Residence
Unable to prove the innocence of the young couple, their fathers are charged with cutting off their heads. Sonobe Hyoe (Koshiro) and his wife Ume-no-Kata (Shikan) allow Princess Usuyuki to escape. Saizaki (Kichiemon) appears with a head box which he says contains the head of Saemon and demands that Sonobe cut off Princess Usuyuki's head. Sonobe returns, having secretly stabbed himself to atone for letting Princess Usuyuki escape. Saizaki reveals that, in fact, he has done the same and the two, seemingly stern and villainous men reveal that they have sacrificed themselves for love of their children.
NIWAKA JISHI
The program ends with a lively dance evoking the atmosphere of an Edo period festival. The highlight of the piece is the lion dance performed by two of the handsome young men of the neighborhood.

Aoidayu in ShinUsuyuki was great.  Fukusuke in Niwaka Jishi impressed me.  He had dignity.

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