Allegiance, Charing Cross Theatre | Review

Thursday, 19 January 2023

Charing Cross Theatre 
Reviewed on Wednesday 18th January 2023 by Olivia Mitchell 

The Charing Cross Theatre is one of the best venues for showcasing a variety of interesting musicals, and thankfully it’s currently playing house to George Takei’s brilliant show, Allegiance. Having last visited the venue to see From Here To Eternity, which chronicles the lead up to the Pearl Harbour attacks, this moving musical felt like a very fitting follow on.

Inspired by Takei's life, Allegiance tells the story of over 120,000 Japanese Americans who were thrown into internment camps following the attacks on Pearl Harbour in 1941. The musical is a timely one indeed and really highlights an awful part of history. A "legacy project" for Takei, it's clear that a lot of time and love went into making it as sweet as it is.

Now this is by no means a flawless musical but it is full of emotion and drama that keeps you invested throughout. Marc Acito, Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione have written a book which is multi layered, taking into account history, family drama, romance, humour and heartbreak, and is well paced with a good amount of build up and tension. At times it gets a little bit confusing but is continually an easy show to watch.

Kuo's music is not particularly memorable but has some lovely moments as you're watching. Given the subject matter it's surprisingly upbeat, and despite not having any ear-worms, it is suitably stirring and enjoyable to listen to. Group numbers are especially effective and there's also a nice mix of styles and vocal inflections. Andrew Hilton and Charlie Ingles' orchestrations highlight the intense emotions well.

It's always a treat to see how the Charing Cross theatre is transformed and Tara Overfield Wilkinson's staging is extremely well done.  The stage becomes a variety of settings, from a moving train to a battlefield and each setting feels completely realistic. The continual motion of the set pieces and the actors throughout makes the whole thing flow so seamlessly and it's very impressive how large the stage feels.

Cast wise this show has a uniformly strong group of performers who completely give themselves over to the story and create some splendidly magical moments. Earning applause when he enters the stage Takei is an endearing and commanding stage presence who brings different shades to the characters he plays and does a stellar job of taking us through the family saga. As Takei's younger self (Sam) Telly Leung brings such warmth and charm. It's a treat to see him on a London stage and especially to hear his wonderful voice fill the arches of Charing Cross. 

Megan Gardiner showcases equally beautiful vocals as the nurse for the camp and there are also excellent performances by Aynrand Ferrer and Masashi Fujimoto who both bring great depth to their characters. Ferrer's voice is particularly stunning as she performs her solo moments with impeccable clarity.

Whilst this is a show about the atrocities which happened in 1941, it's surprisingly uplifting and often celebrates love and community. There are some tear-jerking moments at the end but overall this is a really heart-warming piece of theatre that deserves to be seen.

photo credit: Danny Kaan