Enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity requires a heroic effort the likes of which many of us would not be capable.
In the case of the back story to Allegiance, at the Longacre for an extended run, all Japanese- Americans were called upon to show remarkable forebearance as they were rounded up and imprisoned.
After Pearl Harbor, our country, in a pique of paranoia, behaved ignobly toward its citizens of Japanese descent, marking them as de facto enemies. Allegiance is based on a true story, and inspired by one of its stars, George Takei; there were 120,000, Americans of Japanese descent interned under inhuman conditions. America turned on them, while demanding their “allegiance” and loyalty.
In Allegiance, Sammy Kimura (Telly Leung), a college student as American as the proverbial apple pie, struggles to make sense of the injustice being perpertrated upon him and his community. He organizes baseball games and dances to bring some light to the darkness of the Heart Mountain Relocation Center. He is itching to enlist in the war effort.
Japanese-Americans were not allowed to fight for their country; in fact, they lobbied through Japanese American Citizen League (JACL)-head Mike Masaoka (Greg Watanabe) for the privilege to join up. Many volunteered to serve in the armed forces.
His sister, Kei (Lea Salonga), is left behind in Wyoming where she has fallen in love with Frankie Suzuki (Michael K. Lee). Frankie’s sense of honor is to refuse loyalty to a country that keeps his family imprisoned; he burns his draft card. Sammy’s father, Tatsuo Kimura (Christopheren Nomura), has also refused to sign the oath of loyalty and was sent to a labor camp.
For a chunk of the first act of Allegiance, despite the best efforts of its very capable cast, and the sincerity of the text (book by Marc Acito, Jay Kuo, Lorenzo Thione), it was not easy to emotionally connect to the characters’ plight. Somewhere along the line, all that changed. Suddenly, as Kei and Ojii-chan (George Takei) sang about moving a mountain, (the nicely Japanese inflected “Ishi Kara Ishi,” music and lyrics by Jay Kuo), that connection was formed.
At that point, and by the stronger second act, Allegiance exploded as an engaging and moving story. Nonetheless, despite a creditable second act, this story deserves a better telling.
Allegiance reveals the history of an America we may not wish to acknowledge, and of some of its citizens whose resilience and courage we need to acknowledge,
For more information about Allegiance, A new musical inspired by a true story, and for tickets, please visit http://allegiancemusical.com/