Don’t miss Old Globe’s “Allegiance”
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
A stellar performance by the cast of “Allegiance — A New American Musical” plus opportunity to see Lea Salonga and George Takei perform in person make The Old Globe’s production something that should not be missed.
“Allegiance,” making its world premiere at The Old Globe through Oct. 28, is mostly set in World War II. It mixes humor with heartbreak to shed light on the forced internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans in the U.S. that occurred within months of Pearl Harbor. They had to leave their homes, possessions and businesses, and were transported hundreds of miles away with just what they could carry. After living in harsh conditions throughout the war at internment camps, they were released with only a bus ticket and $25 compensation.
The storyline focuses on three generations of the Kimura family — immigrants Ojii-san (Takei) and his son Tatsuo Kimura (Paul Nakauchi), and Tatsuo’s American-born adult daughter Kei (Salonga) and teenage son Sammy (Telly Leung). Through them, issues such as patriotism, family, cultural assimilation, romance and changing roles for each generation are addressed.
Despite its dramatic and tension-filled storyline, there are many light-hearted and humorous moments successfully delivered by the cast.
Takei, who plays Ojii-san in the World War II era scenes and grandson Sam in the opening and conclusion set on Dec. 7, 2001 — Pearl Harbor’s 60th anniversary — is perhaps best-known for playing Mr. Sulu in the “Star Trek” series during his film, television and stage career over the past 50-plus years. Unlike his younger cast members, Takei has personal experience with the “Allegiance” storyline since at age 5 Takei and his family were among the Japanese Americans forced to live in an internment camp.
At opening night on Sept. 19, the audience — obviously well-familiar with his work — broke out in applause when Takei first appeared on stage. He proved that admiration to be well-deserved when alternating between playing the sentimental grandfather who speaks little English and the elderly grandson embittered by his war experience in and out of uniform that led to a decades-long family estrangement.
Salonga, the Tony Award-winning star of “Miss Saigon” and history-making casting in “Les Miserables” on Broadway, was a delight to watch. Her beautiful voice in various numbers, including solo “Higher,” was aptly showcased, as were her acting abilities.
Among other notable performances, were those by Nakauchi for trying to keep tradition and self-dignity alive in extremely trying circumstances while adjusting to his son’s efforts at assimilation. His emotional struggle was evident and believable.
Broadway veteran Leung as the teenage Sammy yearning for a chance to prove his leadership abilities and make his way in the world was enjoyable to watch as was Broadway and Old Globe veteran Allie Trimm as the idealistic Hannah Campbell, a young Quaker nurse in the camp. Together, Leung and Trimm provided some of the sweetest and lighthearted moments in the show as they dared to have a mixed-race romance while trying to improve the situation for all.
In association with the musical, there are two free art exhibits. In the theater lobby is The Tag Project. It features groupings of identification tags resembling those worn by Japanese Americans during their relocation to one of 10 camps.
In the nearby Museum of Man annex, “Allegiance: A San Diego Perspective” is an exhibit that tells the story of the Japanese community in San Diego before and during World War II. It can be viewed noon to 7 p.m. on Sundays and Tuesdays, 5-7 p.m. Wednesdays, 6-8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and noon to 8 p.m. Saturdays.
Tickets to “Allegiance — A New American Musical” start at $39. There are matinee and evening shows through Oct. 28 in The Old Globe’s Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park. Purchase tickets at the box office, www.TheOldGlobe.org and 619-234-5623. Free and $10 valet parking is available.
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