“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.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at the Watford Palace Theatre
“a marvellous show, and a wonderful way to spend an evening!”
Watford’s fantastically festive and chaotically camp pantomime is a Christmas extravaganza!
The first thing to note, which I don’t tend to mention in reviews, but I think is noteworthy on this occasion, is that every single member of staff at Watford Palace Theatre is delightful. From the box office team welcoming me into the building, to the usher who walked me right to my seat, to the hard-working bar staff dealing with a busy interval with smiles on their faces. There was a lovely air of excitement throughout the theatre, and it really added to the pleasant festive atmosphere.
The story (Andrew Pollard) is a unique twist on the traditional tale as old as time. It is set at the Rose Rouge, the finest theatre in Paris, but an up and coming singer falls foul of a dastardly magician’s devilish plot, and only true love can save him!
The riotous script was everything you want from a pantomime. It was a perfect mix of groan-worthy, predictable panto jokes alongside some genuinely hilarious, unexpected moments, with a hefty dose of slapstick, toilet humour and double entendres that go straight over children’s heads, but had the adults roaring with laughter.
The hand painted set (designed by Cleo Pettitt) was impressive, and the lighting (Jamie Platt) gave it some extra razzle dazzle, which added to the spectacle. The lighting throughout was superb – great effects, clever mood lighting, and I always appreciate a good glitter ball!
The costumes (Watford Palace Theatre, Li-Lee Choo and Sarah Ninot) were fabulous, especially Dame Sarah Sew-n-Sew, whose outrageously over the top dresses were a highlight for me. And villain Deja Vu, who, in his sparkly purple number, looked like a mixture of Dick Dastardly and Julian Clary. The performance by Jonathan D Ellis certainly lived up to the camp costume! Energetically playing up to the booing and hissing and “oh no you don’ts” from the audience, Ellis’s performance was excellent from start to finish.
Dame Sarah Sew-n-Sew, played by Terence Frisch in his tenth year as the dame at Watford Palace, was very, very funny. His impeccable comic timing, knowing winks to the audience, and witty improvised moments demonstrated his natural comic ability, complimented by his ten year experience of damehood.
Beauty and the Beast’s only notable downside was the lack of big chorus numbers. The show was a tremendous spectacle, but the song choices let it down a little, especially as all the performers had great singing voices, so it would have been nice to hear them sing together more often. With a cast of only seven people, it was a little bit lacking in “wow” goosebump moments during the songs. There were group numbers at the start of the second act and the finale which were fantastic, though I do think the performers’ beautiful voices could have been put to more use as a group. That said, the band (made up of Ellie Verkerk, Robin Johnson and Red Fielder-Van Kleeff) were absolutely spot on – from transition music at scene changes, to well-timed drum beats at particularly cheesy jokes. And there were some really lovely songs, a gorgeous duet between Belle (Amiyah Goodall) and Beast (Ben Boskovic) was particularly memorable. They both have stunning voices that compliment each other well.
Overall, this was a marvellous show, and a wonderful way to spend an evening!