Allegiance, Musical Tale of WWII Injustice, Opens in CA; Telly Leung, Lea Salonga, George Takei Star
By Kenneth Jones
The Old Globe production of Allegiance — A New American Musical, charting the lives of Japanese Americans who were placed in concentration camps on U.S. soil during World War II, opens Sept. 19 following previews from Sept. 7. The cast boasts Paolo Montalban, Allie Trimm, Michael K. Lee, Ann Sanders, George Takei, Telly Leung and Tony Award winner Lea Salonga.
Stafford Arima (Carrie, Altar Boyz, London's Ragtime) directs the world-premiere production of the history-inspired original musical by Jay Kuo (composer-lyricist) and Marc Acito, Kuo and Lorenzo Thione (co-librettists). Allegiance plays to Oct. 21 on the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage in San Diego's Old Globe Theatre.
The production features choreography by Andrew Palermo (Ace in regional productions, Kristin Chenoweth at Carnegie Hall and The Frank Loesser Songbook with New York Philharmonic) and music supervision, arrangements and orchestrations by Lynne Shankel (Broadway's Cry-Baby, Off-Broadway's Summer of '42, Vanities, Altar Boyz, Paper Mill's Once On This Island, the upcoming Bare).
The "epic story of family, love and patriotism set during the Japanese American internment of World War II" is billed this way: "On the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, a meeting with a young journalist forces World War II veteran Sam Kimura [played by Takei, in a dual role later playing a grandfather] to remember his family's relocation from their California farm to the Heart Mountain internment camp in Wyoming. As they struggle to adjust to their new home, Young Sam and his sister Kei [Lea Salonga] find themselves torn between loyalty to their family and allegiance to their country. With its moving score, Allegiance — A New American Musical takes audiences on a journey into our nation's history through the eyes of one American family."
Director Arima told Playbill.com in recent days, "Working on a new musical that is not based on any source material (except for a historical event) allows the authors to make changes without being hampered by its source. The creative team has used the six weeks of rehearsal and preview period to its full advantage and have made some exciting changes to the book and score of Allegiance.
"The entire process was filled with an adventurous spirit of change. As exasperating as all the change was, it was equally exhilarating — songs were cut, scenes re-written, characters' arcs altered, and choreography and staging adjusted all toward the goal of focus and clarity. Change can be scary, but it is necessary in the creation of a new work."
Takei is best known for portraying Mr. Sulu in the "Star Trek" series. He has appeared in more than 40 feature films, on many television series and on stage.
According to production notes, "Takei and his family, along with 120,000 other Japanese Americans, were unjustly incarcerated behind the barbed-wire enclosures of United States internment camps at the outbreak of World War II. Takei spent part of his childhood at Camp Rohwer in Arkansas and at Camp Tule Lake in Northern California. Meeting Takei and hearing his personal story inspired Allegiance creators Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione to bring the story of the Japanese American internment to the stage."
Salonga, who won the Best Actress Tony Award and an Olivier Award for playing Kim in Miss Saigon, plays Kei Kimura, "a young internee who falls in with a group of activists." Salonga's feature film credits include the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in "Aladdin" and Fa Mulan in "Mulan." She was the first Asian to play Eponine in Les Misérables on Broadway, returned to the show in 2007 as Fantine and reprised the role for the sold-out 25th anniversary concert in London.
Telly Leung, of Broadway's Godspell, Flower Drum Song, Rent, Pacific Overtures and TV's "Glee," plays young Sammy Kimura, "who is torn between fighting for his country and honoring his community — and his family." His first solo CD, "I'll Cover You," will be released in the fall.
Montalban, widely known for playing The Prince in the TV remake of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella," plays Mike Masaoka, "the polarizing real-life leader who encouraged cooperation with the internment despite being Japanese American himself." His Broadway credits include Pacific Overtures and The King and I.
The cast also features Michael K. Lee (Frankie Suzuki), Paul Nakauchi (Tatsuo Kimura) and Bye Bye Birdie and 13 star Allie Trimm (Hannah Campbell) with Katie Boren, Jon Jon Briones, Geno Carr, Karl Josef Co, Marc de la Cruz, MaryAnn Hu, Brandon Joel Maier, Kürt Norby, Ann Sanders, Jill Townsend, Kay Trinidad and Scott Watanabe (Ensemble) and Jennifer Hubilla and Conrad Ricamora (Swings).
The creative team includes 2012 Tony Award winner Donyale Werle (scenic design), Alejo Vietti (costume design), Tony Award winner Howell Binkley (lighting design), Jonathan Deans (sound design), Darrel Maloney (projection design), Jan Gist (dialect coach) Telsey + Company (casting) and Anjee Nero (stage manager). The music director is Laura Bergquist.
Acito (book) wrote the book and additional lyrics for the Globe's world-premiere production of A Room with a View. Acito's play Birds of a Feather, which tells the true story of the nationwide controversy caused by gay penguins in the Central Park Zoo, won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play or Musical for its world premiere at The Hub Theatre. Birds of a Feather will appear next at Diversionary Theatre. Acito will also return to the Hub to create a stage monologue adaptation of his first novel, "How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater," which won the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction, was Editors' Choice by The New York Times and was a Top Teen Pick by the American Library Association. Translated into five languages, it also inspired a sequel, "Attack of the Theater People."
Kuo (music, lyrics and book) marks his fourth musical with Allegiance. His composing career began at Stanford where he wrote and produced Upwardly Mobile, a coming of age story. Kuo's second musical comedy, Insignificant Others, played from 2006-08 in San Francisco at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, Zeum and Theatre 39 and won the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for Best Original Script. His third work, Worlds Apart, about star-crossed lovers in the cultural divide, performed in concert at San Francisco's Magic Theatre in late 2006 and in New York City at New World Stages in 2008. Kuo has also been part of the producing teams of many Broadway shows and national tours.
Thione (book) began working on Allegiance in 2008 alongside friend and composer Jay Kuo following an encounter with George Takei, whose experience in the internment camps inspired them to write a musical about this dark and mostly unknown chapter of American history. Thione is also a serial entrepreneur, theatre producer and community activist and was the co-founder of Powerset, Inc., an internet search company that was acquired by Microsoft in 2008 and whose technology was subsequently re-launched as part of Bing. He is the co-founder, chairman and president of Artify It, an internet-based startup that is bringing high-quality contemporary art within the reach of everyone. Thione also co-founded and helped grow StartOut, a national non-profit organization dedicated to fostering and developing the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders within the LGBT community.
Director Arima, an Olivier Award nominee for directing the London premiere of Ragtime, has the musicals A Separate Peace and Bare on his future schedule.
Tickets can be purchased online at TheOldGlobe.org, by phone at (619) 23-GLOBE or by visiting the Box Office at 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park.
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