NEW YORK — Guests at a private U.S.-Japan Council networking reception May 24 at the Sony Club were privy to a preview of a musical that marks a watershed moment in American theater history.
For the first time, the story of the Japanese American internment will be told on Broadway in a show starring actor and activist George Takei.
“Allegiance” is the story of a family thrust into uncertainty as a result of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. An epic story of love, war and heroism set against the backdrop of the internment, it follows a family as they are forcibly relocated from their home in California to the Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming. “Allegiance” sheds light on the injustices of this time.
Directed by Stafford Arima with music and lyrics by Jay Kuo and book by Kuo and Lorenzo Thione, the musical also stars Lea Salonga (“Les Miserables,” “Flower Drum Song,” “Miss Saigon”) and Telly Leung (“Godspell,” “Glee”).
The world premiere will take place in September at the Old Globe in San Diego.
Seventy years ago, the internment was set into motion by Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. By the end of this dark chapter, over 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent, two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens, had been rounded up and summarily detained without charge or trial.
“Families were devastated, whole communities uprooted, and many lost everything they had ever worked for,” said Takei. “It is thus both an honor and a civic duty to be associated with this production, and to ensure through the power of theater that our story is heard and never forgotten.”
Takei, best known for playing Sulu in the original “Star Trek” series and subsequent films, serves on the U.S.-Japan Council Board of Councilors. USJC is a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening U.S.-Japan relations through building people-to-people connections. Recognizing the catalytic role that Japanese Americans play in strengthening U.S.-Japan relations, USJC cultivates a national network of Japanese American leaders and provides them with leadership and networking opportunities with their Japanese counterparts.
Masaaki Tanaka, CEO for the Americas of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ. serves on the USJC Board of Councilors with Takei and co-hosted the networking reception. Passionate about theater, Tanaka just received the Stella Adler Award for artistic achievement for his contribution to “Hikobae,” a play about first responders to the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.
It was recently announced that Tanaka will return to Tokyo next month with his promotion to representative director and deputy president of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc. (MUFG), subject to MUFG shareholders’ approval. During his time in the U.S., Tanaka was a champion of the Japanese American community and worked to build networks within the Japanese and Japanese American business communities.
Japanese Americans helped the Bank of Tokyo start its operations in California after World War II. “It was the Nikkei community and its people who bought half of the shares of the bank so that the bank could legally operate in the U.S.,” said Tanaka. “In other words, our very presence today owes very much to the Nikkei community, which we should never forget.”
For more information on the show, visit www.allegiancemusical.com.