One cannot imagine the pride that George Takei must feel, sitting humbly at the corner of the stage, watching such a magnificent legacy project unfold before his eyes to continually awe-struck audiences.

‘Allegiance’ tells the story of the Kimura family in the immediate aftermath of Imperial Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbour in December 1941. Despite having lived their whole lives in Salinas, California, their heritage suddenly decides them suspicious, and they are subsequently shipped off to Heart Mountain Relocation Centre. It’s a tale of the immense divide that war can create, and ultimately the bonds that we form with one another in order to survive. This show grapples with many issues that remain pertinent to the present day. People are still judged for their skin, demonised simply because of the place they were born, and though we live in a relatively peaceful age, there remain bitter divides in many countries where conscription is still mandatory. Veterans continue to return from war deeply traumatised, unable to process their experiences. Families are continually torn apart by conflicts they are forcibly dragged into by their leaders — these are all subjects we need to continue to address in public spaces.

The experiences of Japanese-Americans between 1941 and 1945 (and onwards) are a critically under-taught aspect of World War II’s abhorrent history. It is difficult enough to contend with our bygone wartime mistakes, harder enough to believe in the possibility of such prejudiced obscenities. Takei’s personal experiences inform much of Allegiance’s plot, his family being interred for several years — an uncomfortable truth that must be faced.

There are a myriad of right and wrongs during wartime, this most painfully showcased through the struggle between Kei’s immense pride in brother Sammy’s Purple Heart, and her simultaneous love for her husband, Frankie, whose deeply rooted morals saw him beaten and blue in his refusal to enlist. This reviewer has spent several years studying both the Japanese experience abroad during World War II, as well as the inner workings of the Imperial Japanese Empire. Should any viewer/and or reader want to learn more about such a vitally important subject, John Dower’s ‘War Without Mercy‘ is an excellent introduction that doesn’t shy away from the gritty details.

Though many songs lack memorable motifs for audience members to hum as they leave the theatre, there are certainly a couple of standout tracks. ‘Wishes in the Wind,’ the show’s opening number, sees the Kimura family celebrating the Japanese Tanabata festival, during which paper wishes are hung upon an innovative set piece that later transforms from said wishing tree into the constructs of Heart Mountain. Kei’s ballad ‘Higher,’ is truly breathtaking, a beautiful recollection of childhood memories gone by and her aspirations to too, fly higher, made all the more impressive by powerhouse Aynrand Ferrer’s vocal abilities. ‘Stronger Than Before,’ sung again by Aynrand and too Megan Gardiner as Hannah Campbell, gloriously celebrates the women’s triumphs and bravery in the face of overwhelming adversity.

Telly Leung deserves too deserves an honourable mention for his dynamic portrayal of Sammy, perfectly highlighting the flaws and weaknesses of his personality with a killer voice to boot. And as for George Takei — it’s George Takei. Can he really do any wrong? His portrayal of Ojii-chan is nothing short of heartfelt and tender, providing some much-needed relief from extremely difficult and emotive topics. He is a true delight to watch, especially in light of such a prosper-ous career.

Though, it should be noted that the plot may benefit from additional clarity at certain points. For example, Sammy and Hannah’s duet, ‘Should I,’ in which they toy with their potential feelings for each other, is portrayed as if it is their positions as ‘demonised inmate versus employee’ are what is so controversial, rather than the fact that interracial marriage was illegal in 1941. This plot point also feels like a slight cliche for the sake of granting Sammy a romantic interest. Pivotal plot points are often addressed for a minute and moved on from, or inadequate time is granted for audiences to develop connections to certain moments.

The show’s set, aided by the intimate feel of the Charing House Theatre, is used excellently, the barn doors of the Kimura farmhouse rapidly becoming the harsh exterior of Heart Mountain. The ‘balcony’ symbolically elevates the voices of the American government and Japanese American Citizens League head, Mike Masaoka, a villain-of-sorts who continually casts aside his heritage and morals, instead almost buying into American military propaganda to save face. Its minimal set pieces are effective in aiding the story’s progression, and the costumes too remain appropriate and impressive throughout.

Overall, considering the substantial lack of Japanese-centric stories in mainstream Western musical theatre, and ‘Allegiance,’ with minor improvement, would prove an excellent entry into a catalogue of historical productions that have previously indirectly silenced the voices it is attempting to portray. There is certainly something special here.

Tegan Finch
Tegan Finch

Tegan Finch is postgraduate student at King’s College London, currently studying for a Master’s degree in National Security. With a love of theatre stemming from a school trip to Sleeping Beauty when she was only four, the abrupt interval came caused her to burst into tears, fearing that the show was already over! With the move to London for university being a perfect fit, she has been chasing musicals ever since.


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