Wednesday, November 11, 2015


What a spectacular show. Not exactly the theme for a musical but it was pulled off really well.

It deals with a very troubling and dark time in World War II that very few people know about. It shines a bright light on these events.

Imagine being told one day, that because you looked like people your country were at war with, your loyalty to your country was question. Imagine further, that your country decided in order to feel safe, you would be put in camps. Imagine being told to take only what you could carry. Imagine having to sell your property that you worked so hard to obtain for a fraction of what it was worth. Then you get an idea of what Allegiance is all about. The interment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Here’s more about it from the review in USA Today:
Allegiance follows a fictional family, the Kimuras, who are forced off their Califiornia farm and into the Heart Mountain Relocation Center. “Where are we?” asks Ojii-Chan, the gentle patriarch, played by a sweetly mischievous Takei. “Wyoming,” responds his bright, sturdy granddaughter, Kei, portrayed with no-nonsense clarity by former Miss Saigon star Lea Salonga. “I not ask why,” Ojii-Chan counters. “I ask where.”

As Allegiance progresses, though, it comes to wear its sense of purpose more comfortably, even finding flashes of dark wit to mitigate the hokum. We’re introduced to Mike Masoaka, a real-life figure who as spokesman for the Japanese American Citizens League discouraged resistance to oppressive government policies. Played here by Greg Watanabe, he is abrasive but not unsympathetic; there are shades of self-recrimination in his shouting, near the end, to members of his broken community.

This from the Wrap:
Rather than focusing on the atrocities they suffer, “Allegiance” follows three men’s radically different responses to the crisis: Sammy Kimura (Telly Leung) enlists in the Army despite his family’s continued internment. Frankie Suzuki (the dynamic Michael K. Lee) turns rebel inside the camp. Most fascinatingly is the real-life Mike Masaoka (Greg Watanabe), who as a top official with the Japanese-American Citizens League, urged cooperation with the government and called for the creation of the Nisei 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

That’s a lot of history to pack into a two-and-half-hour show, and yet the authors and the cast (under the sure-footed direction of Stafford Arima) never reduce “Allegiance” to a lecture.
But by far the best review comes from Rex Reed in the Observer:
This is a musical? You bet, and a darned passionate one, too. The carefully researched book by Marc Acito, Lorenzo Thione and Jay Kuo, who also supplied the soaring music and intelligent lyrics, collates years of events into a gripping trajectory, while the stirring score perfectly illustrates the action, seamlessly staged by director Stafford Arima. By 1944, to prove their loyalty and ease tensions for their struggling families, Sammy leads a group of Japanese-American boys who join the Army and form their own fighting unit.  (Others were unfairly drafted, even while their families were still jailed.) Dissent reigns, but Sammy fights to defend the honor of all Japanese-Americans back home while others, including his sister Kei’s boyfriend Frankie Suzuki (an equally fine Michael K. Lee), burn draft cards and are labeled draft dodgers, risking a conviction for treason. Lea Salonga, with a voice clear and as sparkling as Baccarat crystal, is the older sister who bridges the gap, maintains peace and stands up for a positive future.
 I'll have more on my thoughts about this incredible show and pictures of the cast in an upcoming post.

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