|Japanese Americans wait for a train headed for a relocation camp. (Scott Lasky photo)
Presented by Palo Alto Players, “Allegiance” is a
musical based on one of the most shameful events in American history: the relocation
of people of Japanese descent during World War II.
With music and lyrics by Jay Kuo and a book by Kuo,
Marc Acito and Lorenzo Thione, it was inspired by the childhood experiences of
actor George Takei (Lt. Sulu on “Star
It focuses on a Salinas farm family, the Kimuras,
who have only a few days to sell the farm and assemble for transport to the
bleak Heart Mountain internment camp in Wyoming after the Pearl Harbor attack
in December 1941.
The family includes Sammy (Jomar Martinez) and his
older sister, Kei (Marah Sotelo), along with their father, Tatsuo (Bryan Pangilinan),
and grandfather, Kaito (Ron Munekawa).
Sammy wants to enlist in the military to prove his
patriotism, but is rejected. Later he meets the camp nurse, Hannah Campbell
(Corinna Laskin), and falls in love with her.
In the meantime, Kei and Frankie Suzuki (Christopher
J. Sotelo) have fallen in love, too.
After Japanese men are allowed to enlist in the 442nd
Regimental Combat Team, Sammy signs up and serves with distinction, but Frankie
resists the subsequent draft with Kei’s support. Sammy bitterly rejects them
Other characters, both good and not-so-good, are
The show opens and closes in 2001 when Sammy (played
by Munekawa as an older man) attends Kei’s funeral and finds he has a chance to
forgive and to forge new family ties.
Thoughtfully directed by Vinh G. Nguyen, the mostly
Asian, 20-member ensemble cast is excellent with standout performances by Martinez
as Sammy, Laskin as Hannah, Marah Sotelo as Kei and Christopher J. Sotelo as
Frankie. (The Sotelos are husband and wife.)
At the keyboard, music director Benjamin Belew
oversees the talented singers and the six-person orchestra.
Nicole Tung has choreographed the lively dancing,
including the jitterbug at a camp dance.
The minimal but effective set is by Skip Epperson
with lighting by Edward Hunter.
Sometimes the lyrics are hard to discern in the sound design by Brandie
The costumes, hair and makeup are by Y. Sharon Peng.
Running about two hours and 40 minutes with
intermission, “Allegiance” is interesting and entertaining despite some slow
spots. In some ways, it might work better as a drama rather than a musical, but
some songs allow characters to express their inner thoughts.
It will continue through May 8 at the Lucie Stern
Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Recorded performances will be
available for streaming-on-demand May 5 to 8.
For tickets and information, call (650) 329-0891 or