I Pledge: This “Allegiance” Is Heartfelt and Brilliant by Kevin M. Thomas

Lea Salonga, George Takei, and Telly Leung in "Allegiance" on Broadway. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Lea Salonga, George Takei, and Telly Leung in “Allegiance” on Broadway. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Heartfelt, emotional and real, “Allegiance” the musical made its Broadway debut this week after years in development and on-the-road, but the trip was definitely worth the wait.

Composer and co-book writer Jay Kuo has taken us back to his roots of the San Francisco Bay Area and tells a story in drama and song that was shared to him by actual events in star George Takei’s own history.

Famed “Star Trek” actor Takei’s childhood was definitely not one from Hollywood High. His story, as told in “Allegiance,” shows how his young hopeful childhood in Salinas, California was taken away from him when his family was sent to an internment camp.  Just for being Japanese American, his family spent years literally imprisoned simply due to their heritage which the government questioned their allegiance to America at the time Japan invaded Pearl Harbor.

Telly Leung in "Allegiance" Photo: Matthew Murphy

Telly Leung in “Allegiance” Photo: Matthew Murphy

Takei plays the fictional version of his own father in his latter years, offering a true emotional core to the entire show. Takei offers an insightful and sympathetic performance in a role that might have been hard to do as he relives many of the horrific moments of growing up imprisoned.

The story flashes back to an early happier time with the Takei character played by Telly Leung, whose wide eye optimism gives us all faith that his family has a good life ahead. His sister, played by Tony Winner Lea Salonga, also shares in the American Dream.

Their dreams are cut short with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and all of their belongings and businesses are taken from their Japanese American community when they are sent to Tule Lake,  and imprisoned without proper medical attention or food.

But the musical, with terrific and plot advancing songs, is not a downer. It’s a story of hope and pride. It shows that no matter how hard someone tries, they can’t take away one’s dignity. 

Leung does Takei’s family proud in being a man of his convictions. His portrayal is full of depth and strength. He is well matched by Salonga, who continues to show her diversity in everything she does – and with one of the greatest voices to grace the Broadway stage.

There’s also some scene stealing moments from Michael K. Lee as a rebellious family friend and a very tender love story between Leung and Katie Rose Clarke.

Kuo, along with co-book writers Mark Acito and Lorenzo Thione, have created a modern masterpiece, full of hope, conflict, spirit and history. It’s definitely worth planning a trip to New York to see.

“Allegiance” is playing at New York’s Longacre Theatre. For tickets and information, go to www.allegiancemusical.com.