Allegiance: Review Roundup

Telly Leung and
Lea Salonga

The new musical Allegiance, inspired by George Takei’s experiences in the U.S. Japanese internment camps during World War II, has opened to positive-leaning reviews at San Diego’s Old Globe Theater. The creative team includes Jay Kuo (book, lyrics, music), Marc Acito and Lorenzo Thione (book), Stafford Arima (direction), Andrew Palermo (choreography), Lynne Shankel (orchestrations), Laura Bergquist (music direction), Donyale Werle (sets), Alejo Vietti (costumes), Howell Binkley (lights), Jonathan Deans (sound), and Darrell Maloney (projections). The cast includes Michael K. Lee (Frankie Suzuki), Telly Leung (Sammy Kimura), Paolo Montalban (Mike Masaoka), Paul Nakauchi (Tatsuo Kimura), Lea Salonga (Kei Kimura), George Takei (Sam Kimura), and Allie Trimm (Hannah Campbell).

Katherine Davis (Back Stage): Some scenes end up feeling overly expository or rushed, but overall, this show offers balanced amounts of history and plot. … The most memorable songs are those with a ‘40s sound or Japanese lyrics. … When Kuo doesn’t follow this historical or cultural formula, the results are much less interesting. Many have a generic musical theater sound and rely on clichéd lyrics like “spread my wings and fly.” Even with several forgettable tunes, however, the strong cast makes this production a musically enjoyable one. … Lea Salonga gives a flawless vocal performance. … With more editing this show could work out its minor flaws, but even as it is, it successfully brings an often-overlooked part of American history to light in a way that is creative and affecting.  … Critics Score: A-

James Hebert (San Diego Union-Tribune): “From the past / we can learn at last.” That’s a lyric from “Second Chances,” a song that goes a long way toward embodying what makes this show … such a stirring and worthwhile work. … It is, to say the least, a sobering subject for a musical. But Allegiance … finds just the right balance of lyricism, heartbreak, yearning and, yes, humor. Most impressive of all, this original work manages to thread together myriad themes – of family strife, politics, patriotism, racial prejudice – into a beautifully unified exploration of what it means to be true to something. It’s not just about allegiance to one’s country, but also to a cause, and to loved ones, and ultimately to one’s self. … “Second Chances”? With luck, Allegiance may well find those on Broadway.

Pam Kragen (North County Times): Allegiance is in impressively polished shape, with a multilayered, clearly plotted, well-paced book. And Kuo’s score is refreshingly different, with unusual and sweeping, Asian-inspired melodies, all lushly orchestrated and arranged by Lynne Shankel. … The musical seems best in its smaller moments, particularly the sweet interactions between Takei and Salonga, who is such a natural, likable actress, and Salonga and Yeung, who plays Sammy with a youthful, wiry intensity. … It’s a living history lesson about one of the most shameful chapters in American history and it’s well-told this fall at The Old Globe.

Rob Stevens (Theater Mania): It’s a heady subject for a musical, and one handled with surprising deftness in this powerful new musical Allegiance at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. … There is a lot of story to cram into two hours, and the writers still need to refine their work. … Takei (whose real-life story inspired the show) provides the steel spine of the production, while giving a heartfelt performance. Leung is energetic and vibrant as Sammy, while Lee gives a powerhouse performance as Frankie and delivers the satirical “Paradise” with panache. But the heart and soul of the show is the touching performance of Salonga, who shines in her many duets with Leung and belts her one solo “Higher” out of theater.

Anne Marie Welsh (L.A. Times): Though peppered with promising scenes and powerfully sung by the largely Asian American cast, Allegiance retreats from the challenge of its own material and hasn’t found a consistent focus, tone or musical idiom. For all its historical reach and welcome significance, the book drifts into two generic romances and in the second act meanders into sentimental warblings that family is “what really matters.” … Composer-lyricist Kuo’s range is wide if derivative, his most memorable tunes being gentle lullabies or hymns in Japanese, or Kander-and-Ebb-like satiric tunes. … Their show needs a sharper emotional focus and musical edge to match its bold subject.

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