Review Round Up: Allegiance, Charing Cross Theatre

Let’s discover what is being said about the UK premiere of the musical starring George Takei.

(c) Danny Kaan

WhatsOnStage: **** “In fact, in Tara Overfield Wilkinson’s UK premiere production at the Charing Cross Theatre, it refuses to do almost ANYTHING quietly… and the result is a rousing, haunting, surprisingly multi-textured piece of musical theatre that maintains, for the most part, a healthy balance between cynicism and sentimentality, and sheds light on horrendous real-life events that were only taught about and acknowledged comparatively recently.”

Evening Standard: *** “Whatever the production’s failings, it’s great to see Takei’s grin at the curtain call. His life has been pretty much dedicated to the promotion of fairness and understanding ever since he put on helmsman Sulu’s yellow jumper in Star Trek in 1966. This show exists and throws light on a slice of neglected history thanks to him. Which is fair enough.”

British Theatre.com: **** “Good musicals can face tough bleak stories and irredeemable losses, however necessary the upbeat final moment and triumphant curtain-call. And this is a good one.  Not perfect,  not perhaps among the musical greats,  but a piece of storytelling and performance which holds you fast.  And there is shivering power in watching how much it means to old Takei to tell it.”

Time Out: ** “Helmed by the Broadway star Telly Leung as Sam, the cast is left to carry a half-baked book. Aynrand Ferrer as Kei has a singing voice so seismic she manages to suffuse feeling into her underwritten role. Her performance of ‘Higher’ is probably the evening’s melodic high point. For ‘Star Trek’ fans and non-‘Star Trek’ fans alike, George Takei’s sporadic presence is almost magical.”

Theatre Fan: ***** “Poignant and uplifting, it’s a story that needs to be told.”

Broadway World:** “A small handful of well-acted scenes and jaunty numbers does not a noteworthy musical make. It didn’t light up Broadway and with London already awash with political dramas – not least Best Of EnemiesHamilton and Mandela – Allegiance may struggle to succeed here too.”

London Theatre1: **** “I felt invested in this story throughout, despite it becoming increasingly contrived. A warm-hearted and fascinating piece of theatre, and a story that, at the end of the day, very much deserves to be told.”

The Telegraph: *** “Inspired by his bitter wartime experience of Japanese-American camps, this musical sees the star shine yet has a crucial piece missing.”

Lost in Theatreland: **** “But I think what sticks with me the most is how timely Allegiance feels, despite the show taking place during World War II and having premiered over a decade ago. Not only because of the topics about race, war, and violence. But also because of the political polarisation, and the impact it can have in family unities. What was particularly interesting to see was how well both sides of the discussion, between the generations of Japanese Americans, was presented, leading the audience to have empathy for both extremes of the argument.”

©Tristram Kenton

The Reviews Hub: *** 1/2 “This is a faithful staging and there are some really great performances here that help this show along, but the musical has found ways to engage with more difficult content in the last five years that occasionally make George Takei’s Allegiance feel a tad old-fashioned. But it’s still important to see work that challenges the accepted narratives of glorious war and changes our perceptions of untarnished heroism in this era.”

The Arts Desk: **** “it’s definitely heartfelt, authentic and moving and that’s plenty enough. (It is also, and this is no backhanded compliment in so challenging a venue as the Charing Cross Theatre, technically immaculate: a fine testament to Chris Whybrow’s sound design).”

Everything Theatre: **** “While Allegiance might not be a smash hit or a note-perfect piece of musical theatre, it more than succeeds in allowing Takei and company to raise awareness of his story and those horrible times, warning us again of the dangers of seeing people by the colour of their skin or their ethnicity. Takei considers this his legacy project; he has spent decades telling his tale. Having such a legend from stage and screen presenting this as a profoundly personal story is enormously powerful and moving.”

The Guardian: ** “Takei is charming in his part but these characters do not become individual or full-bodied enough. The show throws out song after song (music and lyrics by Kuo) and too many of them are unmemorable. The music is rousing, sometimes with a distantly martial beat, but at other times oddly bouncy. The performances are uniformly strong though, as well as the singing, especially from Ferrer whose voice is both powerful and delicate. But we end up simply not feeling strongly enough for a story that should appal and outrage us.”

All That Dazzles: ***** “The greatest strength in Allegiance is its gorgeous songs. With music and lyrics from Jay Kuo, it boasts a consistently strong collection of songs that feel instantly familiar and stay with you long after leaving the theatre. From the beginnings of ‘Wishes On The Wind’ and the immediately resonating ‘Gaman’ to upbeat numbers ‘I Oughta Go’ and ‘Get In The Game’, this is a show where the standard is gloriously strong. Surprising moments including the sarcastic ‘Paradise’ and unexpected ‘442 Victory Swing’ provide an interesting and versatile mix.”

West End Best Friend: **** “Direction and choreography by Tara Overfield Wilkinson is simply sublime. We are caught up in the story from the start, questioning what impossible decisions we would make in the same circumstances and how we would fight to keep our families and community together, yet still finding the strength to celebrate what they still have and striving to return to that better life once the war is over.”

Lou Reviews: **** “I found Allegiance rather touching, ably performed, and full of heart. It also uses the traverse setting at Charing Cross extremely well and feels it has landed in just the right place.”

The Stage: *** “Musical starring George Takei and Telly Leung illuminates a dark period of American history.”

To find out more about the show visit: https://charingcrosstheatre.co.uk/theatre/george-takei-s-allegiance

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