Allegiance – (Review of Preview 10/16/15) – Broadway


Allegience, the new musical about people in Japanese Interment camps in the US during WWII is now previewing at the Longacre Theatre. From the looks of it, this is going to have a good strong run. I saw the Friday Oct 16th 2015 preview of the show.

Based loosely on George Takei’s childhood experience (yes, that George Takei, of Captain Sulu fame from Star Trek, and lately, an internet sensation), the production stars Mr Takei and Lea Salonga, who play brother/sister/and grandfather in different flashback permutations.

The show has a strong book by Marc Acito, Jay Kuo, and Lorenzo Thione. It’s music and lyrics are by Jay Kuo. Its all played out on a serviceable set by Donyale Wright.

The audience had a larger share of Asian Americans in the audience than a typical Broadway show, and that is not surprising given the subject matter. This is a fascinating story and one that needs to be told. The old adage that when emotion becomes too strong to speak, you sing, holds true here. There were many multigenerational families in the audience, and I was happy to see that.

The musical has wonderful moments, filled with joy as well as pain. While the story becomes a bit haggard in its third quarter, it triumphs in its last half hour. Here the emotions are clean, clear, and straight-forward.

The (too long) production is directed by Stafford Arima, and choreographed by Andrew Palermo. At least one of Mr Palermo’s numbers needs to be cut by opening night: “Get in the Game” which is one of the lamest production numbers I’ve seen since Finding Neverland’s “Play”. It is out of place, and it spoils the mood as son Sammy (a superb Telly Leung) compares life in camp to a baseball game — um, NO!

The story itself is interesting, though not very challenging, but it is earnest and straightforward. You see what’s coming from a mile away, but in this instance that isn’t a bad thing — a sad, distant memory that shouldn’t be forgotten as a chapter in our US history.

Mr. Takei is wonderful in his split role — every time he is on stage, you watch mostly him. Lea Salonga’s songs soar with emotion, though some of the descants, particularly in the second act, become repetitive and are not needed to advance the story.

I understand this production is in true preview mode — that is, the show is not frozen and there are changes from night to night as they work out the kinks. I hope they do. As it stands, the production is about 90 percent of a wonderful night of theatre — that remaining 10% is easily fixable, and I hope it is before opening night, because ALLEGIANCE deserves to be on your must-see list.



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