It's fair to say the last few months haven't been the greatest in the world, but some positives have come from being in lockdown. One positive is it's given theatre fans the chance to embrace shows they may never have had the chance to watch before. Allegiance is a prime example of that. If it wasn't for lockdown, I never would have taken the time to watch this show, and boy am I glad I did.
Allegiance may not be a show you have heard of before, but it's one you should give a chance to. The show opened on Broadway in 2015, and while it only played there for four months, it managed to release a cast recording and film the production for cinema (and later streaming) release in that time. If you're going to have a short run, that's how to do it!
Inspired by the personal experiences of Star Trek legend George Takei, who also stars in it, Allegiance tells the story of the Kimura story in the years following the attack on Pearl Harbor and follows the forced relocation and incarceration in concentration camps of many Japanese Americans in the 1940s. Not the lightest subject in the world, and holding up a mirror to the injustices of US history (something they are likely to do again in the future with when looking back on what is going on in the present day) might not be the most comfortable viewing in the world, but when you scratch the surface, Allegiance is a show packed full of heart. While telling an important story, the show still gives you sub-stories to get invested in, including two separate love stories.
Starring some of theatres finest including the always reliable and ridiculously talented Lea Salonga as Kei, Telly Leung, who you may remember from Glee, as the younger version of Sam, star of Wicked on Broadway Katie Rose Clarke as Hannah, Michael K. Lee as Frankie and, as previously mentioned, the legendary George Takei playing both Ojii-chan (Grandpa) and the present day version of Sam. Takei puts himself at the emotional heart of this show in both roles, particularly when voicing his regrets at the shows climax. Leung matches him as the younger Sam, showing the conflicted emotions as he battles his head and his heart.
The songs themselves hold up against their follow musicals. With moments that are not too dissimilar to Miss Saigon and Les Miserables, including act one closer 'Our time now' which features more than a passing resemblance to Les Mis' 'One day more'. Rather than seem like a poor imitation of that classic number, instead it holds its own and gives you the same emotional feeling - something I imagine was felt even more watching it live in the theatre. The moments they come together and sing in unison are among the most powerful you can experience in theatre.
If you are going to cast Lea Salonga in your show, you better give her something to work her incredible vocals around. There is no shortage of standout moments for Lea in this show. Playing Sam's sister Kei in both timelines in the show, she uses every strength of her talent and gives a truly captivating performance. One such highlight is the beautiful 'Higher'.
This is one of those shows where I really find it hard to pick any faults (which is pretty rare as usually my mind will go straight to the things that stop a show being perfect). The cast are flawless, the songs are gorgeous, the staging is stunning and this production has been beautifully filmed as well. The only slight negative I could say is I struggled to get into it right at the beginning, but about halfway through act 1, I had found myself loving it without even realising.
An emotional but ultimately satisfying couple of hours of theatre, this is a show I would really recommend. It might not have been a massive success or very well known, but some of the best musicals are. I could see this show working in a small theatre in the West end if they ever wanted to bring it here, but in the meantime please check it out online, and see if you share my opinion that this is a fantastic piece of theatre.
Allegiance is available to watch on broadwayondemand.com. In the meantime, check out the trailer below.