Music and lyrics by Jay Kuo and a book by Marc Acito, Kuo and Lorenzo Thione
Musical Drama | TV Series (2016)
Breaking from my usual television review, today I’m writing about a Broadway musical production, filmed for movie-goers. It’s not easy to catch this special production, so far shown only a few times around the country, but in my opinion, it is well worth seeking out.
Allegiance is set during the Japanese American internment of World War II, and follows the Kimura family in the years of and after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The family is forced to leave their farm in Salinas, California and are sent to the Heart Mountain internment camp in the rural plains of Wyoming. They take nothing with them except their dignity.
The show effectively puts the watcher into another time and place, one many Americans know little about. It translates not only the history of the period but the feelings of the people experiencing the terrible prejudice and fear elicited by this unprecedented action. One young man chooses to show his allegiance by joining the American army; another stands up for his right as an American citizen to retain an allegiance to his Japanese heritage. Neither is wrong in his beliefs, and Allegiance does a tremendous job of holding the balance.
The story was inspired by the personal experiences of actor George Takei, who stars in the musical. In a letter to fans, Takei writes:
In an act of unprecedented religious discrimination, Donald Trump recently signed an Executive Order temporarily banning migrants from seven majority Muslim countries from entering the U.S. This ill-considered order went into effect without warning, leaving vulnerable travelers in limbo at our borders. But luckily, devoted lawyers, civic leaders and thousands of concerned citizens sped to the airports to help safeguard their rights.
The Trump administration claims this order protects us from “radical Islamic terrorists.” They want to “get ahead of the threat” by implementing this ban. Sadly, I have heard this argument before. When I was a little boy, my family was rounded up at gunpoint and shipped off to internment camps. Most of us were U.S. citizens, but because we happened to look like the enemy, we were held as prisoners in our own country. When we were finally released after the war, we vowed to work to never let this happen again.
It has been my life’s mission to tell this story hoping that history would never repeat itself. In November 2015, Allegiance opened on Broadway. The show was seen live by over 120,000 people. In order to make it available to audiences all over the world, that production was filmed for the big screen. I invite you to see this production in a theater near you in the US and in select cities in Canada on February 19th, 2017, known also as Remembrance Day, the 75th anniversary of the date FDR signed Executive Order 9066 setting the Internment into motion.
As a nation, we must never forget what might occur when fear and prejudice overtake our land. As always, we will save Mr. Trump a seat in any theater he chooses.
If this production comes to a theater near you, I encourage you to take the time to see it.