SAN DIEGO — “Allegiance,” a new musical about the World War II internment of Japanese Americans, had its opening night Wednesday at The Old Globe in San Diego, and the local reviews are in.
U-T San Diego’s James Herbert said the play “finds just the right balance of lyricism, heartbreak, yearning and, yes, humor. Most impressive of all, this original work manages to thread together myriad themes — of family strife, politics, patriotism, racial prejudice — into a beautifully unified exploration of what it means to be true to something. It’s not just about allegiance to one’s country, but also to a cause, and to loved ones, and ultimately to one’s self.
“In that way, ‘Allegiance’ is a little like the intricate origami flower that, in one of the show’s funnier moments, an internee named Kei (Lea Salonga) places in her hair. Made from one of the loyalty questionnaires forced on the internees, it’s a thing of beauty fashioned from an object of bitter division. That sense of irony and hard-won redemption is typical not just of the musical’s story (by Jay Kuo, Lorenzo Thione and Marc Acito) but of composer Kuo’s songs, too.”
Pam Kragen of The North County Times wrote, “As new musicals go, ‘Allegiance’ is in impressively polished shape, with a multilayered, clearly plotted, well-paced book. And Kuo’s score is refreshingly different, with unusual and sweeping, Asian-inspired melodies, all lushly orchestrated and arranged by Lynne Shankel.
“Director Stafford Arima — who brought another World War II musical to the Globe a few years ago, ‘Ace’ — brings a more seasoned, subtle hand to this piece, allowing the story’s emotional arc to build gradually for a shattering payoff in the second act. In other words, bring your Kleenex, you’re going to need it.”
The play, which also stars George Takei and Telly Leung as the older and younger Sam Kimura, takes place in the Heart Mountain internment camp. When the loyalty oath is imposed, Sam and his sister Kei part ways when he is persuaded by JACL leader Mike Masaoka (Paolo Montalban) to join the Army while she falls in love with Frankie Suzuki (Michael K. Lee), who leads a protest against the violation of the internees’ constitutional rights.
Regarding the portrayal of Masaoka, which has been criticized by some JACL members and Nisei veterans on the basis of early versions of the play, Kragen wrote, “The musical’s bookwriters don’t paint him as a hero or villain. The audience is left to draw its own conclusions from Masaoka’s own words, many of them taken directly from his writing and government and investigative reports.”
“Allegiance” opened with previews on Sept. 7 and runs until Oct. 21. Remaining showtimes:
Saturday, Sept. 22 and 29, Oct. 6, 13, and 20, at 2 and 8 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 23 and 30, Oct. 7, 14, and 21, at 2 and 7 p.m.
Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 25-26, Oct. 2-3, 9-10, and 16-17, at 7 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 27, Oct. 4 and 18, at 8 p.m. (no show on Oct. 11)
Friday, Sept. 21 and 28, Oct. 5, 12, and 19, at 8 p.m.