EDINBURGH 2019: BWW Review: TOKYO ROSE, Underbelly Cowgate
One of this year's Untapped Award winners, Burnt Lemon's Tokyo Rose tells the true story of an American citizen born to Japanese parents, Iva Toguri.
Studying to become a doctor in California, Iva (Maya Britto) is sent to Japan to look after her sick aunt. When America join World War Two, she is refused entry to her home country and begins a journey of survival in Japan, eventually finding herself a disc jockey, broadcasting to Allied forces on Radio Tokyo.
Burnt Lemon's retelling of Iva's story mixes together original song from William Patrick Harrison with her trial for treason, accused of betraying her country and broadcasting propaganda to America soldiers. Flashbacks to illustrate her time in Japan are interspersed throughout the trial. Britto plays Iva with an earnest enthusiasm while an ensemble of four take on all other roles around her.
There are clear Hamilton influences in the political, storytelling songs, which start the show with a bang in the opening number and don't let up throughout. Many musical lines are repeated and blended together in the crescendo of the show to great effect. Britto, joined by Yuki Sutton and Lucy Park as her fellow Tokyo Roses, are all excellent vocalists, however the sound balance isn't quite right and you can hear some strain as they stretch to be louder than the music.
This narrative of a woman rejected as other by the place she called home, of mistrust and fear is chillingly relevant to today's world and this show could perhaps give our politicians something to think about. As the dismissive judge and manipulative prosecution lawyer, Cara Baldwin and Hannah Benson perfectly capture the mood of a public who don't care, who just need someone to blame.
The show loses some pace throughout the trial, and the sound needs work, but this new musical is worth seeing and a strong addition to the Untapped Award legacy.