March at Kabukiza features a full-length performance of one of the great classics
of Kabuki, "Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura" (Yoshitsune and the
Thousand Cherry Trees). This is an epic story about the famous 12th century general Yoshitsune fleeing from the wrath of his brother Yoritomo, after the end of the war.
Although Yoshitsune is the title character, the main characters of the play are
actually Tomomori, Gonta and Tadanobu, the heroes of the different sections of the
play. This month's production features top stars in all of these roles,
with Matsumoto K˘shir˘ as the boatman Ginpei, actually the great general Tomomori who appears
as a fearsome ghost and Living National Treasure Onoe Kikugor˘ as the magical fox
Tadanobu. The first half of the evening program features Kataoka Nizaemon as Gonta,
the villainous son of a sushi shop owner and will emphasize the distinctive
Kamigata style of acting which is very close to the original form of this
play as puppet theatre. Also featuring Living National Treasures Nakamura Shikan
and Sakata T˘jűr˘ in key roles.
Torii Mae: (In Front of the Fushimi Inari Shrine)
Yoshitsune (Nakamura Baigyoku) is forced to flee from the troops sent by his brother Yoritomo.
The trip will be hard and he decides that he must leave behind his lover
Shizuka Gozen (Nakamura Fukusuke), despite her passionate pleas to remain with him.
As a reminder of himself, he presents her with a precious hand drum that he
had received from the emperor. Yoshitsune's retainer Tadanobu (Onoe Kikugor˘)
rescues Shizuka from Yoritomo's troops and Yoshitsune decides to leave her
in his care.
Tokaiya/Daimotsu no Ura: (Tokaiya Inn and Daimotsu Bay)
Yoshitsune (Nakamura Baigyoku) books passage on a boat to Kyűshű, but the captain is actually
Taira no Tomomori (Matsumoto K˘shir˘), a general of the Heike clan that Yoshitsune helped to
defeat. Tomomori was supposedly killed by Yoshitsune in the final battle of the war,
but in this play, Tomomori is shown as surviving, living in disguise with the
child emperor Antoku and his nursemaid (Sakata T˘jűr˘). Tomomori uses the opportunity
to try to get his revenge on Yoshitsune but is defeated again. Finally Tomomori
holds a giant anchor and plunges into the sea.
Michiyuki Hatsune no Tabi: the matinee program closes witha musical
travel scene. Hearing that Yoshitsune has taken refuge in the mountains of Yoshino,
Tadanobu (Onoe Kikugor˘) and Shizuka (Nakamura Shikan) go to try to meet him there. Although
Tadanobu keeps disappearing, he always appears when Shizuka plays the precious
drum that she received from Yoshitsune. In dance Tadanobu recounts episodes
from the Genpei war, including the battle in which his brother died.
Ko-no-Mi/Kokingo Uchijini: (The Chestnut Tree and the Death of Kokingo)
Wakaba-no-Naishi(Nakamura T˘z˘), the wife of the Heike commander Koremori, travels with her
young son and their retainer Kokingo (Nakamura Senjaku), searching for her husband.
While resting in a small mountain village, they are met by Gonta (Kataoka Nizaemon),
a local bully who skillfully cons them out of their money. Later they are set
upon by Genji forces, and in a spectacular fight scene, Kokingo sacrifices
himself to save his mistress and her son.
Sushiya: (The Sushi Shop)
Gonta's father Yazaemon (Ichikawa Sadanji) runs a sushi shop,
but was formerly a retainer of Taira no Koremori.
With his clan defeated, Koremori (Nakamura Tokiz˘) now lives with
Yazaemon's family disguised as a humble apprentice. Innocently, Yazaemon's
daughter, Osato (Kataoka Takatar˘) is in love with him. But knowing of the bounty on
Koremori's head, her brother Gonta kills him and turns his wife and child
over to the Genji commander. Furious at his son, Yazaemon stabs him, but
before his death, Gonta reveals that he only pretended to kill Koremori
and sacrificed his own wife and son to save the real Koremori and his family.
Kawatsura H˘gen Yakata: Yoshitsune (Nakamura Baigyoku) has taken refuge in the mountains of Yoshino
at the mansion of an old ally. Tadanobu (Onoe Kikugor˘) arrives but has no recollection
of Shizuka being placed under his care. Shizuka (Nakamura Fukusuke) herself soon arrives
with the other Tadanobu and after an investigation they discover that he is
actually a fox (Onoe Kikugor˘). In a touching story, the fox tells how he took on
human form to be close to the hand drum which is made from the skins of his
Okuniwa: The Heike warrior Noritsune (Matsumoto K˘shir˘), who is disguised as a priest,
tries to attack the mansion. He has to face a pack of foxes and Yoshitsune's followers.
He is easily captured, but Yoshitsune orders his release on one condition:
Tadanobu will challenge the Heike warrior later to a duel to avenge the
death of Tadanobu's brother, who was killed by Noritsune.
Source: Earphone Guide website