Just three months after opening on Broadway, “Allegiance” — which tackles Japanese American incarceration with a story inspired by the childhood of actor George Takei — announced it will end its Broadway run with its final performance on February 14, 2016. Late last year, I reviewed “Allegiance” and found it “poignant and timely”.
The musical deserves unconditional praise for how it tackles a complicated episode in Japanese American history by demonstrating how incarceration literally and figuratively tore apart individual families and the larger community. “Allegiance” presents vastly differing responses to life in the camps that accurately reference the real, conflicting reactions that emerged out of the Japanese American community at the time; each is treated with complexity, humanity and nuance.
…“Allegiance” is a synthesis of our history into an emotional teaching moment for audiences who – as my friend reflected – only learn about Japanese American incarceration through its rare appearances in films like “Karate Kid”. For my friends, this musical was a powerful, educational, and deeply angering show, and for this reason I believe it is something that everyone must see. “Allegiance”’s narrative imperfections would be offset if it wasn’t one of the only mainstream projects to tell this story; if, there was simply more material that tackled this history in different ways. Indeed, we collectively thought that the downstairs gift shop should pair their sales of t-shirts and hats with a few classic Asian American texts on incarceration history (including the book written in association with this musical). We discussed the value of filming a version of the musical to make it accessible for students and adults priced out of attending the show live.
In a statement, the producers of “Allegiance” say they are planning both a national and international tour after the musical leaves Broadway.
By its last performance Allegiance will have been seen on Broadway by approximately 120,000 people, a number that eerily echoes the number of Japanese Americans who were directly impacted by the events that inspired our musical, and whose rights were trampled in the name of pure fear and intolerance. We look forward to continuing to share this essential story – more relevant than ever, given today’s headlines – and this moving score with theatergoers across the country and around the world for many years to come. Audiences who have experienced Allegiance on Broadway have left the theater transformed, uplifted, enlightened, inspired, informed, and entertained. We remain committed to finding more ways in which the true impact of Allegiance will continue.
Last month, Takei responded to comments made by GOP frontrunner (and his former Celebrity Apprentice boss) Donald Trump defending Japanese American incarceration, and the actor invited Trump to attend a showing of “Allegiance”. Since then, a seat has been reserved for Trump at every performance, and photos of the empty chair have been posted to #TrumpWatch.
Let’s see if Trump takes Takei up on his offer some time before the last show of “Allegiance” in February.