I posted about this ages ago when Mr. Takei was fundraising bringing Allegience to Broadway and matching funds for the Japanese American National Museum in… 2014? I never actually thought that I would get to see it, not the version in which Mr. Takei actually was in, given my limited funds and its limited run.
Thankfully, they recorded a performance and tonight, that performance aired at movie theaters around the country. I bought the tickets a full two months before it came out because I was sure it would sell out completely. I saw it at my local theater with a friend and I was right. The theater I was in was freakin’ packed!
The very brief summary (I don’t want to spoil anything) is a family of Japanese Americans is sent to an internment camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the musical is about what happens to them there. Only, it’s really about family and growing up and becoming more and… well. It’s both inspirational and aspirational in far too many ways to count.
Lea and Katie Rose’s voices should be classified as weapons, holy crimoly! They are so stunning, both were hard to take in sometimes. Telly Leung was wonderful in his role as the young Sam and also has a great voice, clear and true. Mr. Takei… well, what can I say about him? His vision brought all of this about and he was delightful in the role of the grandfather and older Sam.
There were two surprises in this for me, though probably only because I never get to go to the theater and so don’t know most of the actors involved: Michael K. Lee and Christopheren Nomura. Michael played the irrepressible Frankie with a sly humor that made me giggle and Christopheren’s truthful and powerful performance (Holy God, his voice!!) as the father of the family went right to my gut. Honestly, the entire cast is outstanding from the GIs to the supporting characters in the camp.
There was only 1 song I found to be a little weak, but I think that was just in comparison to all the other songs. The music did overpower the voices a couple of times, but was itself a great accompaniment. The sets were simple, but very effective. I don’t feel I can speak to the writing because I’ve never learned how to write this particular genre and so don’t know what’s considered “good” vs. “bad.” The direction was pretty seamless so far as I could tell. No awkward moments or scenes.
If they air it again (please please please do!!) and you go to see it, which everyone everywhere should do, stay after the credits. If you don’t get to see it, well, I feel sorry for you. You’ve missed out.
Bring. Tissues. It’s an extremely moving opera (really, ‘musical’ seems too… light, to describe this one) and you’ll need them. At some point. Maybe a couple of points. Guess it depends on how easily you cry. I ended up with a crying headache and sore throat, so judge accordingly.
This is a vitally important piece of history, especially given everything going on in the world right now. A few times I caught myself thinking, “Jesus. That’s going on right now.” It’s a disturbingly appropriate work of art in this day. Aside from that, we need to acknowledge, as Americans, when we do harm and this exposes a shameful part of our past that all citizens should know about.