Allegiance, an unusual production about the Japanese Americans who were forced and evacuated from their homes and imprisoned in various places out West because they might pose a security threat to America. Not only is it a tough subject to write a play about but this time the producers have brought this sad tale to Broadway as a musical. The story is an important one but the fact that it is partially brought to us in song and dance was not necessary.
Just after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. rounded up anyone who had any sort of Japanese affiliation and transported them to places like the Santa Anita racetrack and the Rohwer Relocation Center in Arkansas. Those imprisoned then had a choice when filling out a loyalty questionnaire which would specify their allegiance to the U.S. If you didn’t answer the way the authorities wanted you to, things got a great deal worse. Most of the prisoners signed the document the hoped for way but those that didn’t were shipped off to much harsher places like Tule Lake in California.
The story played out on stage tackles the subject from the point of view of the members of one family and how they handled the more than tough situation in various ways.
Interestingly enough Allegiance stars George Takei who you will remember played Mr. Sulu in Star Trek, was one of the 120,000 or so Japanese-Americans imprisoned. He was there and you can bet a great deal of what you see was influenced by what Mr. Takei experienced.
The singing of most of the numbers composed by Jay Kuo is handled by Lea Salonga who everyone remembers from Miss Saigon back in 1991 in a role for which she received a Tony. Most of the songs, besides being somewhat similar in nature and tempo are certainly enjoyable even if they are not showstoppers. The rest of the cast including Telly Leung who has had parts in many Broadway musicals including Rent and Godspell are certainly adequate. (As a note of interest Allegiance and just about everyone in the large cast came from the production first was seen at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego.)
So do you go see Allegiance? Well if you’re interested in the subject matter and most people seem to be, you should go. The show, however, let’s be honest, maybe shouldn’t have been a musical and certainly not one that runs 2 ½ hours. The story is too important to be taken lightly.