Kabuki star Kanzaburo Nakamura died of acute respiratory distress on Dec. 5 in Tokyo. He was 57 and had been undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer.Born into a distinguished Kabuki theatrical family, Nakamura was the oldest son of Kabuki great Kanzaburo Nakamura XVII. Known as Noriaki Namino, he assumed the Kanzaburo Nakamura stage name in 2005 following his father’s death. A visionary and charismatic thesp, Nakamura brought his centuries-old performing art into the present with flamboyant, innovative stagings of Kabuki plays that attracted crowds of younger fans to nontraditional venues in Tokyo and elsewhere. In 2000 he launched his own troupe, which made successful appearances abroad, including New York (2004 and 2007) and Washington, D.C. (2007). Nakamura mastered both male and female roles in all-male Kabuki, as well as starring in modern stage plays and appearing in pics, TV shows and even TV commercials. By the time of his death he was a nationally known figure whose passing was front-page news. He is survived by his two Kabuki actor sons Kankuro Nakamura VI and Shichinosuke Nakamura II.