What’s past is past but it’s not the last
We’re not alive to just remember.
When life has said to you:
Not a chance, but two.
Life has granted you a second chance.
[Music and lyrics by Jay Kuo]
Truly “we’re not alive to just remember,” yet we remember in order to extract meaning and lessons from the past. I found out about Allegiance back in 2010 when I heard the song “Second Chances” sung by Lea Salonga. Being a fan of musicals, I wanted to see the show in person. Thankfully, I got a chance to see Allegiance on Broadway in October 2015. I enjoyed the performance and I assume many of the audience members around me did as well based on the laughter and tears that they shed. I must say that Michael K. Lee’s portrayal of his character Frankie was the standout for me.
The story of Allegiance is set during the dark time of WWII when Japanese-Americans were placed in internment camps. What struck me the most about Allegiance is its weaving of themes of family and history, even if some parts are historically inaccurate. Still, we have to acknowledge that the 20th century was one of the bloodiest centuries. It is in that era that we encounter the show’s main characters: the Kimura family. The show begins with an invitation from a deceased Kei (played by Lea Salonga) to her brother Sammy (played by George Takei; younger Sammy is played by Telly Leung) to revisit their past, when they were still a family on good terms. What follows is a recounting of their experience at Heart Mountain Relocation Center and the conflict that escalated among several characters, but particularly between Sammy and Kei.
While the show clearly illustrates that family bonds can be mended even if it takes decades, the other crucial message is that there will be occasions in our lives when we hand over our allegiance to our ideals and not to our family. We stack our values and create a hierarchy of our priorities. To Sammy it was his patriotism. To Kei it was her sense of duty and love for her family and friends at the internment camp. Conflict arises due to a clash of values. The resolution, as presented by the show, is achieved not through compromise, which is what many people would think of when they want to resolve an issue. Rather it is through forgiveness that a true resolution is achieved. I love that message, but in terms of applying it to our lives and society, I know it is often difficult and requires time.
Allegiance’s premature closing on Broadway (it closed on Sunday, Feb. 14) is lamentable for several reasons. A primary reason is of course the fact that the show was able to raise awareness of a specific time in American history and ponder the future of America if the country continues to let racism and hatred run rampant. Secondly, despite its weaknesses, the show was filled with sincerity. Thirdly, the cast was a joy to watch.
Though we bid farewell to the show for now, its message lingers: as long as we consciously make decisions based on love in our seemingly mundane lives, stopping the cycle of hatred and oppression and working toward peace will no longer be merely wishes on the wind.
Allegiance Broadway Cast Recording
Allegiance’s tumblr account
The Verdict: Read Reviews for Broadway’s Allegiance
Heart Mountain’s website