Burnt Lemon Theatre turned heads last year with raucous gig-theatre show The Half Moon Shania. They’re back this year, as part of the New Diorama Theatre’s Untapped Award, with Tokyo Rose, a rap-infused musical telling the story of Iva Toguri, an American citizen who broadcast Japanese propaganda during the Second World War.
It’s very much a post-Hamilton musical – it digs up an overlooked story, retells it in a whirlwind of rapid-fire lyrics and lung-bursting solos, and spins it all into a comment on contemporary America.
A lot of the right ingredients are there. The material is seriously interesting, a moving story of a woman caught between two hostile countries, intelligently framed by a courtroom trial. The performances – Maya Britto, Yuki Sutton, Lucy Park, Cara Baldwin and Hannah Benson, who directs deftly as well – are punchy. And its good to see three actors of East Asian descent on stage.
But it doesn’t quite come together. There is a lot of plot that writers Baldwin and Maryhee Yoon struggle to elucidate and interrogate at the same time. The score, composed by William Patrick Harrison, is over-stuffed, and several accents wobble as well. Perhaps it will play better in London in October.