George Takei's Allegiance

There are many stories that are lost or hidden from view, and George Takei’s Allegiance takes one of the shameful moments in American history - the incarceration of Japanese-American citizens in internment camps - and brings it into the light of day. With music and lyrics by Jay Kuo and directed by Tara Overfield Wilkinson, this musical is a bittersweet story of family, identity and love set against an all too familiar backdrop of racism, hate and war.

One of the most - if not the most - important musicals currently playing on the West End

Told through the eyes of an older Sam Kimura (George Takei), Allegiance tracks the lives of the Kimura family, as their world is turned upside down with the attacks on Pearl Harbour and their incarceration along with other Japanese-American citizens in internment camps during World War II. It is against this period of history that the musical follows the relationships and conflicts between Samy Kimura (Telly Leung), his sister Kei (Aynrand Ferrer), Tatsuo (Masashi Fujimoto) and Oji-Chan (Takei) as they survive the reality that is forced upon them.

The creative team have managed to bridge the shades between the light and dark elements of this musical, managing to push the relationships between the characters to the forefront. This is especially noticeable in Kuo’s score, which heavily utilizes musical tropes, creating a dichotomy between the overall setting of the internment camp and the upbeat musical numbers. This ‘big band Broadway sound’ is frequently mixed with traditional Japanese folk music, creating a distinctly harmonious and haunting sound. The repeating melodies, in particular that of Gaman, becomes almost an act of rebellion as it goes from a reminder, to a rallying cry. Nic Farman’s lighting design, like most of the show, is grounded in naturalism, from bright yellows that shift to bluer tones as the lights track the progression of the day and time. One absolutely striking moment is during Nothing in Our Way, where Kei and Frankie Suzuki (Patrick Munday) sing about their future together away from the camp, and whilst it is a beautifully romantic duet, Farman’s lighting increases the tension surrounding the pair during this song, and we cannot help feel the fear of discovery mixed with hope and tenderness that emanates from Ferrer and Munday.

The cast are constantly on the move, creating a sense of community with their performances. Each song reaches new heights in terms of energy and talent. It is hard to give a proper commendation to the entire cast in their respective roles, only because describing the beauty of this story and their role in it is difficult to do justice fully without giving too much away. The best way to give the ovation that their performances deserve is to place it fully in the category of timeless beautiful things, a category reserved only for the most special works of art. Leung plays the role of young Sammy with an almost puppy-ish buoyancy that lends itself to an innocence that we cannot help but find endearing. His sheer energy and bright tenor brings an earnestness to Leung's performance that we cannot help but wanting to protect and root for his success, and maybe that is part of the tragedy in this show. Only the hardest of hearts wouldn’t soften at Ferrer’s performance of Higher, and even then it seems likely that they would. Because Ferrer’s performance is so moving, so heartfelt and captivating that we cannot help but be struck dumb by her singing, in only that we can’t believe our ears. A rare talent, hopefully Ferrer’s rendition will be recorded, only so that we can listen to her sing this song over and over again. There is something incredibly comforting about Takei's presence on the stage. There is wisdom and humour in his delivery that serves to lighten the tension before it becomes unbearable, making comments that we cannot help but smile at, and bringing some relief. It is incredibly easy to distance yourself from history, but having Takei onstage, and seeing him perform in a show that is based on his own experiences, makes Allegiance all the more urgent and touching.

Allegiance is not big or flashy, it doesn’t hide behind special effects. It’s a grounded, raw and human tale based on historical events that uses only the power of great acting and theatre bring the immediacy of the ugly scars of history that we can trace forward to our own time. This musical’s strength is in its narrative, in the cast’s ability to convey the depth and darkness of the events shown even while performing a high-energy musical number, and showing the joy and love between their characters. Because of this, Allegiance is one of the most - if not the most - important musicals currently playing on the West End.

Reviews by Katerina Partolina Schwartz

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Performances

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The Blurb

Legendary TV and film star GEORGE TAKEI will make his London stage debut in the UK Premiere of his Broadway Musical George Takei's Allegiance. George Takei, the original and beloved Mr Sulu from Star Trek, film and television star, activist and social media icon is to make his London stage debut at Charing Cross Theatre.

Their loyalty was questioned, their freedom taken away, but their spirit could never be broken. Inspired by the true events surrounding its star George Takei, Allegiance is the story of the Kimura family, whose lives are upended when they and 120,000 other Japanese-Americans are forced to leave their homes following the events of Pearl Harbor. Sam Kimura seeks to prove his patriotism by fighting for his country in the war, but his sister, Kei, fiercely protests the government’s treatment of her people. An uplifting testament to the power of the human spirit, Allegiance follows the Kimuras as they fight between duty and defiance, custom and change, family bonds and forbidden loves.

He will perform alongside Broadway star Telly Leung (Broadway's Alladin, Glee) in this enthralling and epic new musical conceived just for the UK.

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