WORTH A LOOK?: ***
WHERE? New Diorama Theatre RUNTIME: 75 minutes (no interval)
WHEN? 12/10 (matinee), closes 12/10/19
Word reached us from this summer’s Edinburgh Festival that this new musical by Burnt Lemon Theatre was the show to catch.
- Read on for reasons including how this has a fascinating World War Two-based true story at its heart
Iva Toguri, an American citizen and daughter of Japanese immigrants, travelled from the US to Japan to look after her sick aunt shortly before the Pearl Harbour attack.
Unable to leave the country or to continue to stay with her aunt’s family when war broke out between the two countries, she was recruited to appear on propaganda programme The Zero Hour.
The framing device here is the US court case which tried to establish whether Toguri, or Tokyo Rose as she was known, was a traitor. In our era of fake news this discussion of ideas including nationality and borders is pertinent.
Was Rose, broadcast name Orphan Ann, demoralising her American military listeners or was she warning them about the destinations of imminent attacks?
Six was the big hit of Edinburgh in 2017 and shares much in common with Tokyo Rose: they’re musicals, based on historical events with all-singing, all-female casts who incorporate dancing with an energy shared with some of pop’s finest groups including the Spice Girls and Little Mix.
Two of the cast made us sit up and take note: co-writer Cara Baldwin is a terrific character actress (we especially enjoyed her major who recruits Toguri) and Yuki Sutton moved us most with her fine singing.
Elsewhere Maya Britto is an engaging lead, director Hannah Benson also has multiple roles and Lucy Park joins her in making the cast appear much larger than it actually is.
Tokyo Rose is sung-through and reminds of Hamilton although the standard of the songwriting is not quite so comparable. The parping horns of the score are very of the moment however and we scribbled down the potential title Step Off, Step Out as the song we felt had the most potential.
Tokyo Rose has already won awards, the New Diorama and Underbelly Untapped Award 2019 and Les Enfants Terribles Stepladder Award, and it would be a real shame if the show did not have a life flowering further after this brief London run.