In 1942 over 100,000 Japanese Americans were forced to relocate into U.S. internment camps due to Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor.Today many are not aware of the internment or know very little about how that period affected lives. Famed TV star and social media phenomenon, George Takei and his family were among those interned. Takei is now helping to present this story in the brand new Broadway-bound musical Allegiance, currently in the last week of its run at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, CA.
Allegiance follows the Kimuras from their family farm to an internment camp where their family becomes divided over the idea of adopting American patriotism or the nostalgia for their culture and homeland of the elder Kimuras. Sammy (Telly Leung) is the youngest and longs to find his place in the world. He becomes convinced that it is his mission to Americanize himself and those around him, doing everything he can to become a better American. His older sister Kei (Tony Award Winner Lea Salonga) has spent most of her life watching over Sammy since their Mother died. She now finds herself disagreeing with the direction he is going in and becomes even more perplexed as their Father Tatsuo (Paul Nakauchi) disobeys all orders and refuses to sign a patriotic testament, staying true to his heritage. The family struggles to remain together over their period in the camp and are ultimately separated when Sammy leaves to fight in the war.
The story is compelling and beautifully written. Book writers Marc Acito, Lorenzo Thione and Jay Kuo (who also wrote the music and lyrics) have captured a warming spirit and unyielding determination that captivates the audience from the moment the curtain rises. There may still be some kinks to iron out, but those lie mostly within the songs. Though Kuo’s music is beautiful, his lyrics seem forced. At times there appears to be too much to say in one song. There are some conversations that happen in a sing-song fashion, where they might be more powerful in a normal conversation before the song.
Where the passion and captivation of this piece truly lies is with the phenomenal cast. Led by the extremely talented Salonga the cast brings humanity and character to this heart wrenching story. Leung is mesmerizing and inspiring as the energetic, hope-filled Sammy. He is young and vibrant and you long for him to find his dream and go down the right path and ache when he takes the path that leads him away from Kei and the rest of his family. There is not a single cast member that is not strong and beneficial to this production. We can only hope that the cast stays with the show through the Broadway opening because multiple Tony nominations are in this shows future if they do.
Though the run at the Old Globe is coming to a close the journey of this show is just beginning. Slated to open on Broadway in order to be eligible for the 2013 Tony Awards, Allegiance is bound to touch audiences and inspire young people in many ways. Helping to give a voice to the American past in hopes that our future will be different. Though it may not be absolute perfection this shows holds many positive attributes and is one not to be missed.
*To learn more about the show’s journey please visit the website: http://www.allegiancemusical.com/
**All Photos courtesy of the Allegiance Facebook Page