By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
“Allegiance,” a musical about the internment of Japanese Americans, is on track for its premiere next year, according to actor George Takei, who will play one of the main characters.
Takei, best known for playing Sulu in the original “Star Trek,” stopped by the Japanese American National Museum on Saturday to see the documentary “A Flicker in Eternity” before attending CAPE’s (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) 20th anniversary gala at Union Station.
“In July, we had a workshop production,” he said. “For the first time we got off-book (meaning that the actors did not have the script in hand), we had a choreographer choreograph it and we filmed it, and we’re using that in our search for investors in the project.
“If you’ve seen any of the earlier readings, it’s quite different from that. Each iteration of the project has been a tremendous improvement, greatly developed, and new songs have been added, certain scenes have been cut, other scenes have been written.
“We now are going to get ourselves ready for the world premiere of the production in San Diego at the Old Globe Theatre, which has sent many productions to Broadway. And after that production next year, probably in the early fall … we’ll go on to New York and the biggest and the most important stage in American theater, Broadway.”
The story follows the Omura family as they are forcibly relocated from Salinas to the Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming. It explores the decision by some to join the U.S. Army to prove their loyalty as well as the conflict between the JACL and the resisters who challenged the constitutionality of the internment. The book is by Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione, with music and lyrics by Kuo. Stafford Arima is the director.
A veteran of the stage, but not musicals, Takei said, “I sing, but not a solo. I sing with the group. When you have singers like Lea Salonga, who won a Tony for ‘Miss Saigon,’ and Telly Leung, who’s in ‘Godspell’ now … it would be awfully arrogant for me to be singing a solo with those two.”
He said of Leung, “He’s got a glorious voice. He plays a younger me. So he’s singing for me. I’m playing the old veteran of the 442nd … And playing my father we have Paul Nakauchi, who studied opera. He sings the title song, ‘Allegiance.’ It is powerful.”
Other cast members include Jose Llana, Sala Iwamatsu, Jason Tam, Allie Trimm, William Parry, Donna Bullock and Paolo Montalban.
Videos of the songs have been posted on YouTube “to get the word out, get some conversation and buzz going for ‘Allegiance,’ ” Takei added. “We’re very excited about it. I think we have a very important play. In fact, this will be the first musical done on Broadway on the internment. So it is going to be a historic event.”
Song titles include “Shikataganai,” “Gaman,” “Better Americans,” “The Mountain’s Heart,” “Power of the Word,” “When He Comes Home,” and “442 Victory Swing.”
Takei is currently a regular on the Nickelodeon series “Supah Ninjas,” in which he plays a hologram of Mike Fukunaga’s late grandfather. “Hologramps” serves as a sensei for Mike (Ryan Potter), Owen (Carlos Reynolds) and Amanda (Gracie Dzienny) as they fight crime. The cast also includes Randall Park as Mike’s father and Brandon Soo Hoo as Mike’s cousin. The show premiered earlier this year.
Asked if “Supah Ninjas” will be renewed, Takei replied, “We were hoping to have word near the end of September. That was switched back to October, and now here we are in November … We expect to hear before the year is out.
“They’ve got to respond before the year is out because they have to prepare. And the kids are growing very fast. When you’re a teenager, you keep growing and changing, so they have to make their decision very soon so that there’s some continuity from the end of the (first) season …
“I do concert narrations with symphony orchestras and I booked a few dates already, so if they should begin shooting during the time that I’ve already booked these engagements, they have to juggle their schedule. But they’re mindful of that.”
During the CAPE event, Takei presented an award to the producers of “Supah Ninjas” for positive portrayals of Asian Americans.
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