Allegiance, The Old Globe’s new musical which premiered September 7th, focuses on World War II, but it wasn’t as positive and fun loving as “The Sound of Music.” Instead of a nanny in Germany, Allegiance portrays the grim reality of Japanese internment camps here in America during the war. Up until I saw the show, I’ll admit I was skeptical of how good it really could to be. Something told me it’d be exceedingly difficult to illustrate this dark topic in a musical and maintain any sense of seriousness. Humor would be difficult as well as they’d be walking on a thin line, since internment camps are generally untouchable subjects.
However, I was pleasantly surprised, it worked out with a fantastic cast that includes GeorgeTakei, who formerly played Captain Sulu from Star Trek, Telly Leung, who’s made appearances “RENT,” “Wicked,” and “Glee,” and Lea Salonga, who won the Tony Award for “Miss Saigon” and also voiced Mulan and Jasmine from “Aladdin.” The musical dished out compelling romance, conflicts and bonds between family and a great deal of ironic patriotism that mocked America. One scene that covered the bombing of Hiroshima was very dark and devastating, but the next scene immediately transitioned into a glitzy-ruffle-covered do-wop music scene, the song entitled “Victory”, which illustrated the lack of remorse and regret for those killed in the bomb’s blast.
The musical appealed greatly to those who are frustrated or resentful of the choices of the American government. You watch a Japanese American family lose everything over the course of several years: their farm, their possessions, their life. They were no longer Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, they were ‘japs,’ and you feel their frustration of being forced into the draft. If you didn’t join the army as a Japanese internee you were committing treason, and if you did, you were essentially going to die for a country that didn’t trust you.
Allegiance did a great job of making the show incredibly realistic; the hardships of the family the main actors portrayed felt honest. The distance between the musical and the audience was minimal, less than you would expect from your standard production primarily because the majority of people in the audience were 60+, and these people’s parents were likely affected by the events in World War II themselves. The musical was moving to me even though I’m not 60, and I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys a romantic drama about a black eye on America’s history that should be taken seriously.