Celebrating the harvest with paper wishes hung on trees, all was well on the West Coast in the Japanese communities until Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan. Not only did the United States enter WWII but 120,000 of these peaceful Japanese-Americans were rounded up and unjustly incarcerated by our government – much like Hitler was rounding up Jews.
This new and original musical ALLEGIANCE – Book by Marc Acito, Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione with Music & Lyrics by Jay Kuo – tackles this extremely serious and cathartic story head on.
Some might wonder why make this a musical. This emotionally powerful story stands on its own. But the emotions are so high that the characters reach a point where mere words aren’t enough. They must sing.
Much of the dialogue itself is sung with lots of underscoring. The emotionally draining score is varied with strong anthems and tender love duets and some fun Forties boogie-woogie.
One only wishes that ALLEGIANCE could have some really stand-out memorable songs to lift it to a higher level that the story so wants it to be. That being said there are some great numbers that probably only need to be heard again to really resonate.
This production is bold and daring. Fragile and powerful. Beautifully directed by Stafford Arima, it incorporates original stylized movements and choreography by Andrew Palermo that is quite memorable.
The cast headed by George Takei – who was instrumental in bringing this important part of his life experience to life on the Longacre Theatre stage – couldn’t be better.
Happy to be able to fit into his old Army uniform in 2001 Sam Kimura receives a large envelope from his estranged sister who has died and we flashback to Salinas California 1941 and meet his younger version (Sammy – a passionate Telly Leung) with his stern father Tatsuo (a commanding Christopher Nomura) and his wise, soft spoken and funny grandfather Ojii-chan (George Takei) and his sister Kei Kimura – portrayed with a possible Tony winning performance by Lea Salonga whose voice is crystal clear and filled with love and honesty.
When Pearl Harbor is attacked everything changes for them. They are divided into where each of their allegiances lie. And this family discord explodes.
Sammy falls in love with Nurse Hannah Campbell from Nebraska (a quirky Katie Rose Clarke) while his shy old maid sister Kei is wooed by Frankie Suzuki (a strong and charming Michael K. Lee) whose political ideals radically differ from that of Sammy pulling the family in opposite directions as we follow their story to the front lines in Italy and France with the Japanese combat forces created by real life character Mike Masaoka (a conflicted yet strong Greg Watanabe) a top official in the Japanese-American Citizen League who urged cooperation.
ALLEGIANCE is strong stuff. It is deplorable what happened to these innocent bystanders as a result of a war which they did not create. Attention must be paid. Who will be next?
This incredible production proves that one can suffer humiliation and indignities with hope and endurance and survive. Worthy of a visit.
Photos: Matthew Murphy
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