The Atakemaru dinner theater is designed to thrill you with sight and sound. The show was put together by a former member of the nationally renowned Shiki (Four Seasons) Theater Company and features a rotating cast of professional performers, many of whom have roots there as well.
The Shiki Theater Company operates in major cities across Japan and actually has several locations in Tokyo. They are famous for their excellent productions of such international favorites as Lion King, Mama Mia, Frozen, Aladdin, Cats and A Chorus Line.This is the level of the performance quality that you can expect on the Atakemaru.
The cast list is for the month is posted on the Atakemaru website so you can get a good idea beforehand of the performers who will be taking you on your journey back to the days of Edo era hospitality.
For January 2020 the cast members include Yuuri Hasegawa (former Shiki Theater Company member), Misaho (former Shiki Theater Company member), Zentaro Ogawa (former Shiki Theater Company member), Eri Yamafuji (TV performer and professional backup dancer) Miho Fukumitsu (TV and stage performer and professional backup dancer), Saki Nomura (dance company member and stage performer) Mifumi Aoi, (stage performer), Aya Mito (singer, stage performer), Yu Shoizawa (singer and stage performer), Yusuke Miyazawa (stage performer ballet dancer) and Natsuko Oji (singer, musician and stage performer).
If you happen to take a look at their profiles, you will see that it’s fair to say that all the Atakemaru cast members represent the best of the performing arts in Tokyo. They are all extremely active in their specific genres and have deep ties in the artistic community. Bringing all their talent to the Atakemaru stage, they succeed in creating a mesmerizing show.
The concept behind the theater is wagaku, which can be translated as “enjoying Japanese culture” or “the study of Japanese culture”. This ties into the overall historic spirit of the ship.
When you board the vessel, you are almost immediately greeted by members of the cast who are already dressed in their colorful costumes and wearing eye-catching makeup. They are full of smiles and offer a warm welcome as they direct you to the seating.
The enchanting sound of traditional Japanese melodies, characterized by exotic percussion and syncopated rhythms, fills the air. You take your seats and get ready for the excitement to come.
Before the actual performance, there is a brief introduction to the history of the Atakemaru in English and Japanese, with the performer moving comfortably between the two languages.
The actors join together for a short song prior to the main show, after which they raise their glasses for a toast with the members of the audience. When the last shout of kampai or “cheers” is complete, the main performance gets underway.
The show that you will see depends on the time of day or the day of the week that you happen to be on board the Atakemaru. A typical performance features three dancers dressed in fiery costumes and stunning makeup. As they dance, sing and chant, they skillfully wave ornamental folding fans to the music. Once in a while, one of the performers will take a turn playing a large Japanese taiko drum located at the side of the stage.
Their movements reflect a fusion of traditional Japanese theatrical dance and Western ballet and modern dance. Some of the steps they do remind you of something you might see a festival, while others seem to come right out a broadway musical.
There is a lot of audience interaction, with the performers often jumping out among members of the audience. Spectators are encouraged to participate by clapping their hands to the beat of the drum. As the dancers transition to another segment of the performance, one of them will address the audience without even taking a breather. Talk about stamina!
The “umbrella dance” is another favorite, bringing this much-loved and beautiful cultural icon to the stage. The performers brilliantly spin and use them as if they were folding screens, at times playfully masking themselves from the audience.
One of the coolest dance segments is the “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” routine.This is the section where you really feel a sense of the unique quality of the choreography.
Another popular performance is reminiscent of the Takarazuka Revue, which is famous worldwide for its all female cast. Two of the performers are dressed in gorgeous ceremonial kimono and while a third takes on the male role in dark-colored garb.They sing romantically as they move across the stage.
No matter which cast you happen to catch, you will be in for a great show. All the performers work so well together to bring the world of Edo era hospitality to the 21st century.