I went to Kabuki theater for the first time in Japan on September 6. This was from the Heisei Nakamura clan, who are apparently very famous. A Japanese colleague at work asked if I wanted to attend – I said, “Sure, why not?” Another Japanese colleague joined us as well. Wikipedia has a very nice description of Kabuki. Another good reference is Kabuki21.
Fortunately, the basic story was explained to me ahead of time because I surely was not going to understand it. All parts, men and women, are played by men. There are many formalities to it, but I was surprised to see lightheartedness as well. At times the performers really played to the audience. I was also surprised by the physicality of some of the performances as well.
The first act was quite long, with the story as complicated as any Shakespeare lover story or tragedy. Basically our story was based on a bunch of guys all digging the same girl. A lot of people get killed, and two (male and female) come back as one to haunt the hero and the heroine. The second act basically is a big fight between the ghost and a ronin who used to be samurai to the hero. The second act reminded me of a fireworks grand finale, with lots of dancing, colors, elaborate staging, etc.