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‘Chicago’ review: Bob Fosse classic put on by all-female Japanese troupe

Yoga Wao and Hikaru Asami in

Yoga Wao and Hikaru Asami in "Chicago" by the Japanese group Takarazuka Revue, part of the Lincoln Center Festival. Photo Credit: Stephanie Berger Photography

WHAT “Chicago”

WHERE Koch Theater, Lincoln Center, through Sunday, July 24

INFO $35-$110; 212-721-6500; lincolncenterfestival.org

BOTTOM LINE A surprisingly straightforward all-woman Japanese recreation.

The lure of an all-woman Japanese import of “Chicago” is hard to resist. What would such a faraway culture and ritualized gender switches make of Bob Fosse’s hyper-American, deliriously unsentimental, down-and-dirty erotic musical about murdering flapper floozies in Cook County Jail?

Surprisingly, not much. The production by the 100-year-old Takarazuka Revue, part of the Lincoln Center Festival going on through Sunday, July 24, feels mostly like a tracing-paper copy of the hit revival that’s been playing with revolving-door casts on Broadway since 1996.

This isn’t bad, of course, because that revival by director Walter Bobbie and choreographer Ann Reinking reclaimed the 1975 original in the stupendously pleasurable style of Brechtian vaudeville. The Takarazuka recreates the sets, the costumes, the serpentine wha-wha trumpet in the too-small onstage orchestra in the too-big theater with conscientious, often exhilarating flair.

The actors playing men — especially Saori Mine as Billy Flynn in Wednesday’s performance — seem manly enough, but not in a way that suggests a concept, a genuine reason for the impersonations. Except for a few American phrases, including “all that jazz” and “razzle dazzle,” the performance is in Japanese with English supertitles.

After “Chicago,” the company reappears with what’s reportedly its more typical razzle dazzle, called Takarazuka Encore. This is a 20-minute follies throwback, in which dancers in nightclubby feathers and toreador outfits emulate Rockettes, dance a conga, and sing an operetta and Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life.” And so, apparently, it is.

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