NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Sunday, November 8, 2015, 9:00 PM
Beam them up.
A storied “Star Trek” helmsman can do only so much to make his first Broadway enterprise soar. George Takei, known as Mr. Sulu from the classic sci-fi series, does bring starry charisma and a galaxy of goodwill to “Allegiance,” but the show is stuck on impulse power.
Creators Marc Acito, Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione deserve credit for shedding light on a dark chapter of American history. Inspired by Takei’s personal experience, the team explores Japanese American internment camps through the eyes of one fictional family — the Kimuras.
The story begins in 2001, then flashes back to just before and after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Set designer Donyale Werle’s sliding panels and costumer Alejo Vietti’s period clothes help situate the story in time and location.
The show’s title refers to a federal government questionnaire demanding “unqualified allegiance” to the U.S. “They lock us up, then ask for loyalty,” says the Kimura patriarch (Christopheren Nomura). He won’t sign — and that sets off an unsettling chain reaction.
There’s noble and meaty material here. But the storytelling has issues. The production, directed by Stafford Arima, is a jumble — super-serious here, airy musical-comedy there (let’s jitterbug!). Kuo’s score careens from grand pop opera anthems to earnest but trivial self-help filler songs with titles like “Resist,” “Higher” and “Our Time Now.”
One interesting song that stands out, “Gaman,” refers to Japanese expression for holding one’s head high. For the imprisoned Kimuras, that’s a challenge. Young Sam (Telly Leung in a strong performance) wants to join the Army, despite the U.S. government’s mistreatment of his family. His sister Kei (a very fine Lea Salonga, a Tony Award winner for “Miss Saigon”) is drawn to Frankie (Michael K. Lee), who refuses to fight for the U.S.
Sam and Kei’s grandfather (an endearing Takei) folds the questionnaire into a paper lotus that gets pinned behind Kei’s ear. “You’re a woman who wears a political statement in her hair,” says Frankie. “Allegiance” also wants to make a significant statement. But it’s too tangled to say very much.