George Tekei was five years old when his family was forced to live in an internment camp for almost four years (watch a PBS interview with George here). But the fictional family of Allegiance consists of a brother and sister in their 20s, with their widowed father and grandfather. They try to make a life for themselves under less than ideal circumstances, banding together with other camp residents to demand improvements ranging from medication to a community dance. Sammy decides to join the Army as soon as he's allowed, proving himself a loyal American, while his sister Kei works for justice from within camp. She falls in love with Frankie, who takes an opposing stance to Sammy, refusing to fight for a country that has imprisoned him and his people. Similarly, Kei and Sammy's father is moved to a harsher prison because he will not swear allegiance to a country that treats him so unjustly, while their grandfather plants a garden to improve life in the camp. Each character tries to make life better and fight for justice in their own way, big or small. When Sammy returns from war, he is upset with the choices his family made, resulting in a decades long estrangement that is eventually healed - but at what cost?
|the cast of Allegiance|
The mostly traditional musical theater score is pleasant enough, peppered with some Japanese elements, and the creators take advantage of the '40s time period for some fun "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" type music and dance numbers (the only good part of WWII was the music). The dance scene is particularly fun, as is the baseball scene, in contrast to the war scenes which are jarringly disturbing.
I found myself wishing that the creators had told George Tekei's story, rather than trying to cram in so many elements of history that it ends up being a watered down generic story (Fun Home is a great example of the idea that the more specific a story is, the more universal it is). But despite its shortcomings, Allegiance is well worth seeing for the wonderful performances, excellent Asian-American cast, and the telling of an important story in American history.
Read more of my Broadway reviews here.