IN BRIEF Strongly-voiced musical retelling about the woman framed as an anti-US propagandist focuses on the injustice.
Inspired by a true story of the rare case of an American citizen tried for treason in 1949, TOKYO ROSE is a musical interpretation of the story of US-born Iva Toguri. Young and somewhat impressionable, Iva was repeatedly caught in a web of circumstances, persecuted and imprisoned for 6 years for broadcasting wartime anti-American propaganda.
Although born in the US, even in her own country, Iva is portrayed as an outsider- fellow university students assume she is from elsewhere simply because of the way she looks. Kind and somewhat naïve, she journeys to Japan to care for a sick aunt. When Pearl Harbour changes everything, and unable to go home, Iva is at first cajoled and then commanded into becoming one of 14 female broadcasters spreading fake news to the US troops. The war’s end brings further misery as she is tricked into a newspaper interview and subsequently tried and jailed for 6 years, the prosecution case later proved to be riddled with lies and intimidation.
The talented trio of Maya Britto (as Iva), Lucy Park (as the Aunt) and Yuki Sutton (as Mother) all impress with their voices, with Britto having the best numbers and in the quieter moments allowing the audience to empathise with Iva’s situation.
The rest of the characters felt sketchily drawn and were played in a broad range of styles.
The music is interestingly scored and often good to listen to (although the rap style stuff didn’t work for me). For the majority of the time we are listening to song after song belted out which although impressive at the start, loses its impact after a while, and the quieter “Letters Home” pieces come as a welcome relief, as well as allowing the performers to use a different vocal range.
It is vital that real stories about people facing injustice are told through the power of theatre. Although showcasing three voices that I am very glad to have heard, at times I really wanted more of the story rather than having to make each piece of the story a musical number accompanied by (sometimes an overabundance of) choreography. Therefore I wondered whether the musical form was the best vehicle for the interpretation of this story.
The natural outrage about the many injustices meted out to Iva is clear in the show’s approach. I did feel that at a few moments the anger risked becoming uncontrolled and getting in the way of the story rather than supporting it.
Nevertheless, I was glad to have finally seen the show, and the three very interesting central performers too.