Netflix’s latest original documentary, Sing Dance Act: Kabuki, follows Toma Ikuta and his best friend Matsuya Onoe as they train and take on the challenge of playing roles different from the traditional roles that we are used to seeing. The documentary uses a mix of interviews with Ikuta, historical footage, and more to tell the story.
– Sing Dance Act: Kabuki review doesn’t contain any spoilers –
Sing, Dance, Act: Kabuki is a Reminder About the Bliss of Friendship and Performance
Watching Ikuta and Onoe prepare for their debut in the form as they take special lessons, learn to face the audience, and even practice a new style of the walk was fascinating to watch. The powerful emotions of the performances have such a strong effect on them that it is clear why they would make a high school pact over it.
It’s ancient, it’s spiritual, it’s precise, and it’s dance theatre — that’s Kabuki. It is one of the three primary Japanese theatrical forms, along with Noh and Bunraku. Shown only in the summer, Kabuki tells its dramatic story by wearing elaborate costumes and applying makeup to transform its performers’ skin into their character.
This art form requires a masterful level of singing and dancing, so it seems like an odd choice for a television program. But Sing Dance Act: Kabuki Featuring Toma Ikuta made it happen, to bring us behind the screen footage to watch as he grows into a professional performing in this ancient theatre.
The documentary shows their preparation for a particular play, honing their skills and focusing their mind as they prepare to become their characters in Kabuki. This is accomplished via an extended training montage as they carry wooden staves and learn to survive a fall from a platform onto the stage. It is intense training, and it’s equally as fierce watching them prepare for the role, becoming much more than just the actor who became a part of one character.
Viewers are Swept into Every Sequence of Sing Dance Act: Kabuki
I am not going to tell you how impressive the performances were — because they were fantastic. I don’t need to provide proof; you can see it for yourself. The only thing I will say regarding the performance is that a lot of painstaking work goes into preparing everything perfectly from head to toe.
Whether adorning your hair with handcrafted wigs or applying makeup that takes up to 3 hours to complete, the performers put in a lot of hard work, which shows in their craftsmanship. Pure artistry for the sake of art; this is what Kabuki offers, and Sing Dance Act does a fantastic job of capturing some of these crucial moments.
The first thing one notices in the documentary is the performers’ skill, which makes sense. Beyond them, other strong points are making this not just an exploration of performance art but an appreciation of the hard work it takes to put a performance on.
We See Giddy and Pensive Emotions in the Art Form of Sing Dance Act: Kabuki
Changing between exposure for front-of-camera and exposure for back-of-stage is of the essence. The subtle differences here show how filming changes things within the performance experience. It’s a perfect balance of personalities, in this case, providing an insight into the evolution of acting as performance art.
As the show progresses, you can see the difference in Ikuta’s acting. His improvement by constantly challenging himself and thinking critically of his work is surprising. No other show I’ve talked about has made me feel so much about acting.
Seeing someone learn it from the ground up, building character and not just performing, is remarkable. And that’s precisely what Sing Dance Act does with Kabuki: show the people and techniques behind iconic (and timeless) performances.
Stream It or Skip It?
Kabuki took me by surprise. I went in thinking it was a documentary about Toma Ikuta, but what I got pulled into was not only the beauty of Kabuki theatre and its history but into a story about two friends and people who learned a craft and followed their passions with fierce dedication.
It’s delightful, powerful, and awe-inspiring to see him find his true self through a new medium, dedicating himself to authenticity.
Sing Dance Act: Kabuki is streaming on Netflix