“The cast was absolutely outstanding, with not a single weak performance amongst them”
It is an interesting choice to hold Allegiance at The Charing Cross Theatre. The small, quirky theatre was recently home to From Here to Eternity, a stunning musical which told the story of American soldiers stationed in Hawaii during the Pearl Harbour Attack. Allegiance feels rather like a sequel to From Here to Eternity, telling the story of the aftermath from the perspective of the Japanese Americans.
George Takei’s touching musical tells the true story of the Japanese Americans forced into internment camps following the Pearl Harbour attack. A place where Takei spent a large portion of his childhood. It is clear that this musical is written from personal experience and was filled with heart. It is a moving story and a stark portrayal of the racism that was ingrained in society at the time, and a warning signal for the modern era.
The music (Jay Kuo) was cleverly written, with traditional Japanese themes intertwined with American Big Band style, and much like the cultures in the show, these styles were at times complementing each other, and at others appearing to clash somewhat.
The cast was absolutely outstanding, with not a single weak performance amongst them. A few stand outs were Telly Leung as Sammy Kimura, a young Japanese American feeling torn between his citizenship and his heritage. The song Allegiance, led by Sammy and his father (Masashi Fujimoto) was sublime. Patrick Munday as Frankie Suzuki led another fantastic performance in the song Paradise. However, the showstopper for me was Aynrand Ferrer, a powerhouse vocalist whose performance was filled with emotion. Her ballad Higher was truly breath-taking.
Given the heart-breaking subject matter, I was surprised to find some genuinely very funny moments in the show – George Takei is a great comic actor, with the humorous moments heightened by the hopeless situation that the characters were in at the time.
The set (Mayou Trikerioti) was simple and effective, however with the traverse staging, it sometimes felt like one side of the audience or another was being left out of the action a little, or that the performers were trying to find a happy medium, and at times appeared to be performing to the walls between the audience sections.
Allegiance is an incredibly powerful show that highlights an important and often overlooked part of history, and holds a vital lesson for the modern era to prevent history from repeating itself.
“a super night’s entertainment to be enjoyed by all”
The Producer before the start of this show asks the audience to ‘go ballastic’ and the packed house duly obliges, knowing just when the right times are to boo and cheer, and gives the show a worthy ovation at the end of the evening.
And I am not surprised, for this is a wonderful family show, directed by Michael Gattrell, and performed by a very strong cast. The singing is powerful, the dancing is energetic. There isn’t a great deal of plot or tension, but this is panto! The show programme offers just a ten-sentence plot synopsis but there is so much more going on here and for those expecting a show within the tradition of Christmas pantomime, this production ticks all the boxes.
Matt Crosby as Widow Twankey sets the standard for the show. Batting his over-large eye lashes in a rendition of “Hanky-Panky” (it rhymes with Twankey!), he sings in confident gravelly bass tones, and we know we are going to be in safe hands.
Aladdin (Carl Au) is a wide-eyed dreamer with a Scouse accent. Both Au and Isaac Stanmore as Wishy-Washy, in a delightfully over-the-top performance, show cheeky charm and play well together. A messy laundry slapstick scene involving Twankey and Wishy-Washy is a highlight of the evening for many.
Rolan Bell as Abanazar devilishly milks his inner villain, declaiming rhyming couplets in velvety tones. Flashes and smoke bombs welcome his every entry.
Princess Poppy (Megan-Hollie Robertson) is the necessary love interest but she and Aladdin need to work a little more on their spark if we are to believe in their secret love.
The all-important Genie is played by Jak Allen-Anderson as a very tall, acrobatic game show host whilst Aiesha Pease is The Spirit of the Ring who helps move along the plot and enjoys some powerful soul numbers.
All the principals get their own moment in the spotlight in this show and all sing brilliantly. Au excels in his ballad as he flies on the magic carpet to rescue the Princess. There is some nice stage craft here too though Aladdin needs to relax more into it. The most surprising turn of the evening is Abanazar’s rock inspired solo “I Want it All” but the standout song of the show, amongst several contenders, is Poppy’s poignant solo as she looks to find the confidence to start living her life, beautifully performed by Robertson.
The stage comes alive in each of the full ensemble numbers. With music from a live four-piece pit band (Musical Director Dean McDermott) and singing reinforced by a six-strong ensemble led by the ever-smiling Dance Captain Hettie Pearson, the dance choreography by Kevan Allen is effective and performed with high energy throughout.
Writer Al Lockhart-Morley provides an engaging script with strong and funny repartee. There is a small amount of innuendo for the older ones in the audience to knowingly chuckle at, but this show isn’t smutty. And there are no politics either. Otherwise, with just a few references to lockdown, there is an endless flow of the corniest cracker jokes, puns and amusing word play. Gently mocking references to local Cambridge amenities draw appreciative laughs.
This production is a super night’s entertainment to be enjoyed by all. Princess Poppy says at one point, “it is incredible, but it isn’t true” and that could apply to this whole idea of pantomime. But this is the season for it, and that is just fine. Oh yes, it is.