Charing Cross Theatre, London
Music & Lyrics by Jay Kuo
Book by Marc Acito, Jay Kuo & Lorenzo Thione
Directed & Choreographed by Tara Overfield Wilkinson
Making its London premiere, George Takei’s Allegiance is an inspired story that blends history and humanity together with some cracking tunes into an evening of powerful entertainment.
Takei was a young child when along with another 120,000 American citizens of Japanese heritage, he was interned as an enemy alien following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Allegiance explores the period through the eyes of a fictional family of Japanese Americans, with Takei taking a sidelined but critical role as Sam the family elder, looking back at his wartime experience.
If the show’s lyrics are occasionally simplistic they are more than made up for by the cleverly crafted narrative that weaves two love stories into a backdrop of honour and pride, alongside the incredulity and horror of patriotic Americans being interned for no other reason than their heritage. With a respectful acknowledgment to the slaughter of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, the show outlines a carefully-crafted observation on the United States’ complex wartime relationship with Japan.
Telly Leung plays the young Sam, magnificently convincing both in his patriotism and his love for the WASP nurse Hannah, played by Megan Gardiner. The standout performance of the night however is delivered by Aynrand Ferrer as Sam’s sister Kei. Her character is given some of the story’s most painful arcs that she absolutely smashes - alongside a singing performance that ranges from taking the Charing Cross roof off with its power, through to a softer heartbreaking intensity. Credit too to Gardiner who is as strong, albeit in a smaller but nonetheless essential role.
Jay Kuo’s melodies are an astonishing combination of styles that range from Japanese themed numbers through to dance-hall swing and which provide an ingenious snapshot of the time through its music. Delivered by Beth Jerem’s six-piece band, the compositions are a delight.
It is not often that Charing Cross stages such a gem - but Tara Overfield Wilkinson has helmed and choreographed just that. See it if you can, George Takei’s Allegiance is an outstanding work of musical theatre.
Runs until 8th April
Photo credit: Tristram Kenton