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Allegiance

Book (with Marc Acito and Lorenzo Thione), Music and Lyrics by Jay Kuo
Longacre Theatre, New York
From

Allegiance has been conceived with the intention of combining a history lesson with a good dose of hero worship.

There are not many chances for Trekkies to see an original cast member on stage so the belated Broadway debut of almost octogenarian George Takai (still stone-faced Sulu to the devoted fans) will keep the box office ticking over. Present him with the company of Broadway darling Lea Salonga and a hit is practically guaranteed.

The man responsible for the writing is also an interesting character. It is an odds-on bet that Jay Kuo is the first ever writer of the book (with Marc Acito and Lorenzo Thione), music and lyrics to a Broadway musical who is also a member of the US Supreme Court Bar.

One could suggest that this training is apparent in a show that is ruthlessly schematic in its efforts to get a message across, repeatedly ignoring connections or logical actions where a plot twist can be improved and allowing sentiment to govern.

However, much can be forgiven when the underlying story is so strong. It is probably no longer taught in American schools but during the Second World War (if even that is on the curriculum?) any American citizens of Japanese descent, including those born in the States, were interned ostensibly for the safety of the community. As such, Allegiance presents a story that needs to be told.

Inevitably, this divided families as the Japanese-Americans could either assimilate and support the war effort or remember their origins and root for the enemy.

That is the basis for a drama based on opposition. The key figures are three generations of one family. Takei is competent as the grandfather, a cheery old buffer who largely ignores troublesome politics. His son, Christopher Nomura’s Tatsuo is a traditionalist who loves all things Japanese.

The third generation is split. Telly Leung’s Sammy is an American through to his heart, while Lea Salonga’s Kei tends the other way, especially after she falls for fiery Frankie, a revolutionary who will not accept the draft.

Add in Katie Rose Clarke as a wholesome, blonde nurse girlfriend for Sammy and you have the makings of a cracking melodrama and that is exactly what is delivered.

The plotting has little depth but makes some good political points and jerks a few tears during the 2½ hours.

Jay Kuo’s music hits most of the right buttons without a real blockbuster hit, with relatively standard musical variety, supplemented by some enjoyable jazzy and swing moments. The songs repeatedly show off Miss Salonga’s talents, while Leung also has his moments and the company relish the bigger numbers such as “Wishes on the Wind” and “Our Time Now”.

Stafford Arima’s staging utilises design ideas from Donyale Werle, which convey period and location with great simplicity, transporting the action from California to the Wyoming dustbowl and the European battlefields efficiently.

Audiences love musicals featuring undemanding stories and cult stars. Judging by the standing ovation at the performance under review, the producers have found the right formula for a respectable run.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher