Let’s Review: Stunning performances take ‘Allegiance’ over the top
By Diana SaengerWhen Sam Kimura (actor George Takei) is visited by a strange woman who brings him a box from his recently departed sister, his world is once again turned upside down. Sam hasn’t seen or spoken to his sister in 60 years and he’s more angry than sorrowful about this intrusion into his life.
Yet when he opens the box to see what Kei Kimura (Lea Salonga) thought he should see, the old man makes a journey back in time.
Dynamic dialogue, backed by passionate energy to spotlight an injustice, lead to stimulating performances in The Old Globe Theatre’s world premiere of “Allegiance — A New American Musical.”
By way of flashback, the audience meets young Sammy Kimura (Telly Leung) a lively young lad helping out on his family’s farm in California. Although his mother is no longer alive, Sammy gets wonderful love and guidance from his sister Kei. His father Tatsuo (Paul Nakauchi) harbors ill feelings about Sammy, blaming his birth for the loss of his wife.
Filling out the family is patriarch and grandfather Ojii-san, also played by Takei.
Everything is fine on the farm until the day Japan attacks America and all Japanese residents in America — whether American citizens or not — are ordered into internment camps. Packing what few possessions they can take and selling the farm for one-tenth of what it’s worth, the family arrives at camp where they must all share one small room.
Many lost their spirits and will to live because of this treatment. Buoyed by Kei’s spirit to survive (wonderfully infused by Salonga) each family member has a different reaction to the situation.
Sammy, an American citizen, believes he will help get his family released if he signs up to fight in the war. He also falls for Hannah (Allie Trimm), the camp nurse, who gives him the determination to fight the good fight and return. Leung’s portrayal of Sammy shows him perky when he’s cheerleading the internees, strong when leading his platoon, and obstinate when feuding with his family.
Part of that feud evolves when Kei falls for Frankie Suzuki (Michael K. Lee), a hipster internee who is outraged at what America has done to his people and rallies a group of protestors who will go to jail before fighting for the Americans. He, too, has stolen Kei’s heart, which causes a big riff in the family.
Kei has a tough job staying faithful to her clan, continuing to be a surrogate mother to Sammy and also becoming one of the activists in the camp.
The set and staging of “Allegiance” is fantastic. The scene where Sammy and his men are at war is one of the most vivid war scenes I’ve seen on stage.
The story is told with the addition of many songs, of which the most memorable are “Going Places,” “With You,” and “Sacrifice.” Salonga, the standout lead voice, has a rich vocal history, including the voice for Princess Jasmine and Fa Mulan in the Disney movies “Aladdin” and “Mulan,” as well as appearing in Broadway’s “Les Misérables” and “Miss Saigon,” which earned her a Tony and Olivier Award.
Paul Nakauchi is brilliant as the father whose will and traditions do not bend, even when they mean losing a family member’s love and allegiance.
The play also has brilliant lines of humor that provide a welcome relief from the heavy topic. Most are delivered with much aplomb by Takei (“Star Trek,” “Larry Crowne”), who brings everything he has to the stage — in part because he can re- late to this story. He and his own family were in an in- ternment camp. From a beam of happiness in his garden to a tear of regret about the family riff, Takei delivers an amazing character, and reminds us why he’s an American treasure.
If you go■ What: ‘Allegiance — A New American Musical’
■ When: Matinees, evenings, through Oct. 21
■ Where: The Old Globe Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park
■ Tickets: From $26
■ Phone: (619) 234-5623
■ Web: TheOldGlobe.org