Given the history of Star Trek singing careers, the idea of George Takei starring in a Broadway musical is something fans of the 78-year-old icon might regard suspiciously. From William Shatner’s Shakespearean spoken word to Leonard Nimoy’s Hobbit song to Nichelle Nichols singing gospel, it’s been a mixed bag.
But with his performance in the Broadway musical Allegiance, currently in previews at the Longacre Theater, Takei boldly goes where no Trek actor has gone before — into a genuinely impressive musical endeavor.
A two-act play running two and a half hours (including intermission), Allegiance tells the story of a Japanese-American family thrown into an internment camp when the U.S. enters World War II. Allegiance is partly inspired by Takei’s experiences in internment camps as a child, but it’s not autobiographical. Takei was five when incarcerated, while lead character Sammy Kimura — played by the very likable Telly Leung, who Glee fans might recognize as one of the Warblers — is a young man eager to join the war.
Takei plays the older version of Sammy, as well as Sammy’s grandfather in the flashback that constitutes most of the action. While he leaves most of the singing to the pros — the cast also includes Lea Salonga, the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in Aladdin — Takei does duet with Salonga on the charming “Ishi Kara Ishi.”
While a Japanese-American internment camp seems like an unlikely locale for a musical, when you think about it, it’s an unlikely setting for any WWII story. Hollywood and Broadway have been spinning tales about WWII since it was still raging, but storytellers tend to steer clear of a subject that shows the bad deeds of the good guys. For as many WWII stories as we have, it’s crazy to think how few of them even address the 120,000 Americans incarcerated for nothing.
To that end, Allegiance is the rare WWII-era piece of drama that actually feels fresh and necessary. A family splintering as they decide how to react to the internment — should you play along and hope for the best, or refuse to capitulate and resist? — is not a story that’s been done to death, and Allegiance deftly handles the high emotions and conflicting schools of thought.
The music is mostly heart-on-sleeve, voice-to-the-rafters Broadway fare, but some big band-styled numbers are included for good measure. Highlights include opener “Wishes on the Wind,” a baseball-themed group number, and Leung’s flirtatious back-and-forth with his love interest (played by Katie Rose Clarke).
And, of course, Takei’s turn, the aforementioned “Ishi Kara Ishi,” stands out. While the Trek veteran and social media star is certainly the celebrity draw for Allegiance, this production is entirely worth seeing on its own merits. If you get the chance, check this one out.