|Lea Salonga and George Takei in a scene from "Allegiance" (c) Matthew Murphy|
A Trek Through the Years to Tell Story of Life in the Japanese Internment Camps
By Lauren Yarger
Inspired by the true-life experience of its star George Takei (“Star Trek,” “Heroes”), Allegiance follows one family’s journey in this rarely explored part of American history on stage – life in the Japanese internments camps during World War II.
In this play, a mysterious envelope leads Sam Kimura (Takei) back 60 years to when he and his sister Kei (Lea Salonga of Miss Saigon fame making a long-awaited return to Broadway) try to survive after their family is transported to an internment camp. Young Sam is played by Telly Leung.
Sam enlists in the army to prove the family’s loyalty, but Kei, dealing day-to-day with government efforts to humiliate and indoctrinate the camp residents as well as with the shame of her father, Tatsuo Kimura (Christopheren Nomura), takes a different path. She becomes part of a resistance movement while finding romance -- and some difficult consequences-- with Frankie Suzuki (Michael K. Lee), who feels Sam’s decision to fight is a betrayal of his people.
A secondary romance flares between Sam and white nurse Hannah Campbell (Katie Rose Clarke), who changes her views about the camps as she gets to know the people living in them. Friend Mike Masaoka (Greg Watanabe) never stops fighting for the rights of the Japanese-Americans forced to give up their homes, businesses and lives. Family, perseverance and forgiveness are consistent themes.
The story is important, but the telling of it in the book by Marc Acito, Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione falls flat. Music and Lyrics by Kuo are unimpressive (and very American-musical sounding with only a hint of the Japanese culture reflected), even if some impressive voices sing them (while it is wonderful to hear Solonga’s beautiful voice again, some of the songs seems composed just to give the singers an opportunity to belt). Choreography by Andrew Palermo is awkward and seems completely out of place.
Scenic Designer Donyale Werle and Costume Designer Alejo Vietti provide some of the creative highlights with color fading as the family’s situation turns bleak. Newsprint projected onto the set (design by Darrel Maloney) give a sense of the times. War scenes, directed by Stafford Arima, make us feel that we’re at the front. A number of scenes, totally unnecessary, could be cut, however, and trim the two-hour, 30-minute run time.
Allegiance runs through Feb. 14 at the Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $65 - $149: (800) 432-7250; allegiancemusical.com.
Aaron J. Albano, Belinda Allyn, Marcus Choi, Janelle Dote, Dan Horn, Owen Johnston, Darren Lee, Kevin Munhall, Manna Nichols, Autumn Ogawa, Rumi Oyama, Momoko Sugai, Sam Tanabe, Elena Wang , Scott Watanabe and Scott Wise…. Ensemble
Music and Lyrics by Jay Kuo; Book by Marc Acito, Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione; Direction by Stafford Arima; Choreography by Andrew Palermo, Music Supervision, Arrangements and Orchestrations by Lynne Shankel, Musical Direction by Laura Bergquist., Scenic Design by Donyale Werle, Costume Design by Alejo Vietti, Hair and Wig Design by Charles G. LaPointe; Lighting Design by Howell Binkley, Sound Design by Kai Harada, Projection Design is by Darrel Maloney.
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