Feature

Allegiance

The internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II is, “to say the least, a sobering subject for a musical.”

The Old Globe, San Diego(619) 234-5623

***

The internment of more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II is, “to say the least, a sobering subject for a musical,” said James Hebert in The San Diego Union-Tribune. Yet this show, inspired by the childhood experiences of cast member George Takei, isn’t fueled by anger. As it tracks the travails of one family—the Kimuras—whose members take different paths after they’re forced to leave their California farm for a Wyoming internment camp, the play strikes “just the right balance of lyricism, heartbreak, yearning, and, yes, humor.” Like the origami flower that one internee makes from a loyalty questionnaire, Allegiance is “a thing of beauty fashioned from an object of bitter division.”

It could use some streamlining, said Rob Stevens in TheaterMania.com. With long-running family conflicts, flashbacks, two romances, and a dangerous military mission all vying for attention, there might be more story here than anyone could cram into two hours. Fortunately, the top-flight cast elevates the material. Takei, who doubles as both an aging war-hero narrator and the narrator’s grandfather, “provides the steel spine of the production,” while Tony winner Lea Salonga (Miss Saigon) emerges as the show’s “heart and soul.” Whether Allegiance would be as good without them could be debated, but it’s at least a brave stab at humanizing a dark chapter of U.S. history.

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