Theater archives

With a Song in Its Heart, ‘Allegiance’ Tries to Tackle America’s Japanese Internment Camps of World War II


You have to give Allegiance points for nobility of purpose. Based in part on the experiences of George Takei (of Star Trek and, more recently, Facebook fame), it’s an original musical drama about one of the most shameful institutions in the history of America: the Japanese internment camps of World War II, wherein entire communities were imprisoned because they happened to look like the enemy half a world away. Under Stafford Arima’s brisk direction, the cast — including Takei and Tony winner Lea Salonga (Miss Saigon) — is topnotch. The show hits its marks in terms of storytelling and characterization, with enough emotional connection to be engaging and occasionally moving. And while the evening is serious, it’s neither solemn nor humorless.

While the evening is serious, it’s neither solemn nor humorless.

But then there’s the undeniable mediocrity of the material. The orchestra’s opening figure — a tired “Asian” fanfare — virtually promises that Jay Kuo’s score will lack originality. The conflict between political ideology and human relationships (romantic and familial) is a staple of good drama, but the book, by Kuo, Marc Acito, and Lorenzo Thione, delivers it in too many formulaic configurations. Allegiance isn’t dull or bad. It just doesn’t matter as much as it ought to.

By Marc Acito, Jay Kuo, and Lorenzo Thione
Longacre Theatre
220 West 48th Street

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