It was obvious from the start that Berusaiyu no Bara, the story of a woman who is brought up as a man and Takarazuka where women play male roles on stage, were made for each other and the first production was eagerly awaited. Berusaiyu no Bara was adapted for the stage by Shinji Ueda, now director of the Takarazuka Revue Company. It proved impossible to incorporate the whole sweep of the story in a single play and Shinji Ueda produced a variety of different versions concentrating on different aspects of the original tale. They can be broadly classified as "Oscar and Andre versions" and "Fersen and Marie Antoinette versions" depending on which of the two main love stories is treated as central. The first production in 1974 not unnaturally took Oscar as the central character.
Taking the two productions in 2001 as examples, in the "Andre and Oscar version" the top star plays Oscar and the process by which Oscar comes to reject the excesses of the court and support the people's revolution is central, along of course with Oscar's developing love affair with Andre. Fersen goes back to Sweden early on and does not return. The execution of Marie Antoinette is not shown. The play culminates with the deaths of Andre and Oscar in front of the Bastille and an apotheosis in which Andre returns in a fairy coach drawn by Pegasus to be reunited with Oscar for evermore.
The "Fersen and Marie Antoinette version" takes the romance between Fersen and Marie Antoinette as its main theme. The top star plays Fersen, and Andre and Oscar, whose love story is a sub-plot, are both killed at the close of the first act. Fersen's desperate attempts to save Marie Antoinette come to no avail and the play culminates with her death on the scaffold and Fersen's grief. There is a fairy coach in this version too, but the 14 year-old Marie Antoinette travels to France in it to be married to her dream prince, before the disillusion of adulthood sets in.
In other versions, the story of Rosalie and the Black Knight, or of Rosalie's discovery of her true mother, or the story of Jeanne are featured. Whatever the version, the scene in which Oscar and Andre declare their love for each other always appears and is one of the famous moments of Takarazuka history.
Of all the spectacular productions for which Takarazuka is justly famous, Berusaiyu no Bara is possibly the most gorgeous. The challenge of reproducing the elaborations and excesses of the clothes of the pre-French Revolutionary court are triumphantly met. The uniforms worn by the male role players are dazzling. And the elaborate prologue which introduces the main characters amongst a throng of pretty girls and handsome "boys" could not have been staged by any other company.
The first performance of Berusaiyu no Bara, took place at the Takarazuka Grand Theatre on 29 August 1974. This was a Moon Troup production starring Yuri Haruna as Oscar. It was followed by productions by Flower Troupe in 1975 (Yuri Haruna as Andre, Jun Anna as Oscar), and Snow Troupe in 1975/76 (Asami Rei as Andre, Natsuko Migiwa as Oscar). In 1976 Star Troupe performed the first Fersen and Marie Antoinette version (Berusaiyu no Bara III) with Ran Otori as Fersen. Yuri Haruna, Jun Anna and Natsuko Migiwa all appeared as Oscar in this production. It was followed by Moon Troupe in 1976 with Ran Otori as Fersen and Yuri Haruna as Oscar.
This first period from 1974 to 1976 was hugely successful and became known as the "Berubara boom". Many Takarazuka actresses were inspired to join the company by seeing Berubara in the boom years.
The 75th anniversary of the founding of the company in 1989 was commemorated by a revival of Berusaiyu no Bara by Snow Troupe with Maki Ichiro as Oscar and Keaki Mori as Andre (Andre and Oscar version). Star Troupe followed in 1989/90 (Fersen and Marie Antoinette version, Kaoru Hyuga as Fersen, Eri Marimo as Marie Antoinette), Flower Troupe in 1990 (Fersen version, Mizuki Oura as Fersen) and Moon Troupe in 1991 (Oscar version, Mayo Suzukaze as Oscar). Videos of all of the productions were made, but are now hard to find.
By the time of the final performance of the 20th century on 31 July 1991 there had been 1,207 performances and 2,998,000 people had seen it. The Crown Prince of Japan attended a performance at the Tokyo Takarazuka Theatre on 6 July 1991.
Double or even triple casting of the main parts was common in order to give as many actresses as possible a chance to appear in what is regarded as the work mostly closely identified with the Takarazuka company. Particularly notable performances are those of Yuri Haruna, and Mayo Suzukaze as Oscar, Ran Otori as Fersen, and Saki Asaji as Andre.
In 2001, the first year of the new century, two new productions of Berusaiyu no Bara were mounted. Cosmos Troupe performed the Fersen and Marie Antoinette version at the Grand Theatre in Takarazuka from 6 April to 14 May and at the Tokyo Takarazuka Theatre from 5 July to 12 August. Star Troupe performed the Oscar and Andre version from 30 March to 6 May at the Tokyo Takarazuka Theatre and from 17 August to 1 October at the Grand Theatre in Takarazuka. Despite the new productions being billed as "Berusaiyu no Bara 2001", hopes that they would be rewritten for the 21st century were not met and the productions were substantially unchanged from previous versions. Both productions ran to packed houses throughout. Videos of both are now on sale.