Producer and writer Lorenzo Thione told BroadwayWorld.com that their new musical, “Allegiance,” has been eyeing Tony-winning actress Lea Salonga and television icon George Takei to open the show on Broadway in 2011/12.
Salonga (Miss Saigon, Les Miserables) and Takei (Star Trek, Heroes) recently led a first staged reading of the musical at the Japanese American National Museum Democracy Forum in Los Angeles, California to a packed house. With arrangements and music and vocal direction by Frank Johnson, the staged reading also featured an impressive Asian-American cast composed of Jose Llana (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), James Snyder (Cry-Baby), Enrico Rodriguez (Rent), Mike Hagiwara, Tamlyn Tomita (Karate Kid II, Joy Luck Club), Michael Lee and Jennifer Paz (The Last 5 Years).
With music and lyrics by Jay Kuo (Insignificant Others, Worlds Apart) and book by Kuo and Thione, “Allegiance” is a family drama that explores love, loss and heroism during the Japanese American confinement in 1942 of approximately 110,000 Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans in no more than 465 cramped barracks in Wyoming.
“Allegiance” follows the Omura family, who were forced to relocate from their home in Salinas, California to the Heart Mountain Internment Camp during World War II. Their story reflects the deep conflicts of a nation and a people divided: father Tatsuo (Hagiwara), a successful store owner, resists their unjust internment; mother Kimiko (Tomita) fears for their future, quietly resigned to their fate; older son James (Lee) volunteers in an all-Japanese army regiment; and younger son Sam (Rodriguez) yearns for acceptance by America.
Gloria Suzuki (Salonga and Paz), Sam’s (Takei and Rodriguez) sister-in-law, writes a memoir telling her personal experiences living in the internment camps.
During the staged reading of selected songs and scenes from the musical, the audience, moved to tears, gave the cast a well-deserved standing ovation. “Gaman,” a Japanese term that pertains to a source of great strength, is one soaring anthem sung by Salonga and the Company, easily became one of the highlights of the evening. The cast performed their musical numbers without any costumes, theatrical lights, props or sets.
“’Allegiance’ is a major musical about a forgotten part of history,” said Takei, who spent his childhood in an internment camp in Arkansas and was a founder of the Japanese American National Museum. “Kuo’s music soars, and the epic story stirs deep emotions. This is a hugely important, historic work.”
Salonga, on the other hand, wrote in her column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer that “There were many moments that moved us (the cast), and the audience, to tears…I headed back to Manila with a full heart. Reading “Allegiance” reminded me of one reason I do what I do: I love telling a good story with music and lyrics, taking an audience on a journey with me. It’s also wonderful telling a tale that needs to be heard.”