To witness the true emotion on George Takei’s face in the last few moments of Allegiance is reason enough to see it. He is no longer acting–the pain is real, and he brings to the surface all the horrors of his time at the Japanese internment camp in his younger years. Wow! (I’m crying now just writing about it! Honestly.)
Other than that, although this is far from the best musical I’ve ever seen, we in LA are privileged to have the opportunity to see this important and groundbreaking production here in our own backyard.
Allegiance is about the heartbreaking, dystopian, shameful time in this country’s history when, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were forced out of their homes and into internment camps. I found it interesting that near the beginning of the show, one of the characters said that it was “a time no one talks of anymore.” But Mr. X and I had just spoken of it the week before! And not even in relation to this musical! Something came up about it during the Olympics, and I realized that I had scant knowledge of that shameful period in recent (seventy-six years ago) history, so he spent an hour enlightening me. As much as it’s hard to fathom that Americans could have ever behaved so cruelly towards its own citizens, I realize that this country is in danger of committing similar injustices to other human beings at this very time in our lives! (Well, not most Americans; just one evil abomination who’s shockingly at the head of it right now.)
So, armed with that newfound knowledge, (which I swear was never taught in American History in Brooklyn!,) I was happy to head over to Little Tokyo to see Allegiance last week.
I can’t really say that I enjoyed it because it’s hard to enjoy a truth-based heinous scenario. But it is an interesting show, one definitely worth seeing, especially for people in Los Angeles, which boasts a significant Japanese population. (And none of you non-Asians should ever be allowed to eat sushi again if you do not go see this historical musical while you have the chance!)
I found myself shaking my head just about the entire time, in disgust at the unjust situation that people had to suffer through back then. I still feel the same way now, of course, but when I got home and researched the show, and the entire topic, actually, I found-out this is not exactly a fully accurate depiction of the internment camps, which you know I dislike about any entertainment that’s centered around a historical event. It appears that Allegiance portrays aspects of the camps that might not be perfectly authentic. For example, I’ve read that in real life, the guards did not carry guns.
So here’s what I have to say about all that—the real-life circumstances were horrific, no doubt. Just don’t believe everything that this musical lays out—it’s not a documentary, after all; it’s a fact-based dramatization. Take it as you take all “inspired by a true story” plays and movies. This is just one family’s imagined saga. (And then watch the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo because I’m sure that Tom Brokaw will do a long feature on this whole sad tale during the fortnight. At least someone should!) And also, I wasn’t there, of course, so I don’t really know exactly what went on. I guess we all have to decide for ourselves just which parts of Allegiance to believe. But we do know that the whole blight on our history was unnecessary and outrageous. And incredibly sad.
Here’s just how upset I was by what was done to these innocent people–I pulled off all my nail polish during the show! And I had a big event the next morning. If you know me, (which you all sort-of do by now,) you know that’s saying something.
So, now, let me discuss Allegiance as a musical theatre entity, outside of the tragic topic. If it takes a Broadway show to bring this story of oppression, from less than a century ago, to the possibly-nescient masses, I applaud that effort, to the max! (And the journey of just how this piece came into being is a fascinating one, so I really recommend that you research it some time.)
I have to admit that I’ve never seen any version of Star Trek, (even when Mr. X was on one of the iterations,) so a performance by George Takei was new to me. And let me tell you, he is a sight to see. Outside of his brilliance at the end, he’s charming and entertaining all along. (And the entire project was inspired by his experiences with his family at an internment camp, so his performance comes with extra gravitas.)
And I’m happy to report that there is a lot of humor in this show. But there’s also a lot of death, which you know I’m not a fan of. That’s how it has to be, though, I assume, to get the points across most effectively.
And I give them props for how they showed us a few snippets of World War II. It’s hard to do a war scene on stage, but this one is very well-done. And it’s also, mercifully, brief.
I did have a little trouble with the cast breaking into song in the middle of my pain at the topic, but some of the voices, particularly Elena Wang as the main female, were beautiful. (But I do wish she’d move her arms a bit more while performing. I never like the excessive gestures that most singers feel they have to do nowadays, but my own shoulders were hurting from Elena never moving hers!)
The music itself is good enough, but there’s nothing particularly memorable; it all sounds sort-of like one continuous song. But, at least, a good one!
My only real issue with Allegiance is that it’s just about three hours long! I feel that there are at least thirty minutes that can be cut, to give it more impact. I still recommend seeing this production while you can—just remember to bring snacks and let the baby-sitter know you’ll be home late.
But then settle in and enjoy the show. (And, if you’re even as close to being as sensitive a person as I am, do not wear your good nail polish! Actually, you better just schedule a manicure for the next day. And maybe ask for a massage, as well, if you’re shaking your head in empathy as much as I was.)
Lastly, a word on the Aratani Theatre. I had never even heard of it before, but now I’m a fan. It’s beautiful and very comfortable, with excellent sightlines. And easy enough parking, as well. I suggest LA theatre aficionados put it on their regular calendars, whenever there are presentations there.
Allegiance running through April 1, 2018
Aratani Theatre 244 S. San Pedro Street www.allegiancemusical.com