With Broadway in Sight, Allegiance Gets NYC Industry Reading With Lea Salonga, George Takei and Telly Leung
By Adam Hetrick
Tony Award winner Lea Salonga, George Takei and Telly Leung were part of a May 20 New York City industry presentation of Allegiance, the award-winning new musical by Jay Kuo, Marc Acito and Lorenzo Thione.
Allegiance is planning to arrive on Broadway in spring 2014, representatives for the musical confirmed to Playbill.com. The May 20 readings were the latest step toward that goal.
In addition to Salonga (Miss Saigon, Flower Drum Song), Takei ("Star Trek") and Leung (Godspell, "Glee"), the reading cast included Marc de la Cruz, Gaelen Gilliland, Allie Trimm, Kay Trinidad, Diane Phelan, Paul Nakauchi, Katie Boren, MaryAnn Hu, Scott Watanabe, Aaron Albano, Ann Sanders, Aaron Finley, Will Ray, Jon Jon Briones, Marcus Choi and Kenneth Lee.
Olivier Award nominee Stafford Arima (London's Ragtime, Off-Broadway's Bare, Carrie, Altar Boyz) directs the multigenerational drama about the injustice of Japanese-Americans being imprisoned as perceived enemies in 1940s America.
Allegiance had its premiere early last fall at the Old Globe in San Diego, CA. It features music and lyrics by Kuo and book by Acito, Kuo and Thione, with direction by Arima, choreography by Andrew Palermo (Ace in regional productions, Kristin Chenoweth at Carnegie Hall and The Frank Loesser Songbook with New York Philharmonic) and music supervision, arrangements and orchestrations by Lynne Shankel (Broadway's Cry-Baby, Off-Broadway's Summer of '42, Vanities, Altar Boyz, Paper Mill's Once On This Island, Off-Broadway's Bare).
Much of the cast was part of the Old Globe premiere.
The "epic story of family, love and patriotism set during the Japanese American internment of World War II" was billed this way at The Old Globe: "On the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, a meeting with a young journalist forces World War II veteran Sam Kimura [played by Takei, in a dual role later playing a grandfather] to remember his family's relocation from their California farm to the Heart Mountain internment camp in Wyoming. As they struggle to adjust to their new home, Young Sam and his sister Kei [Lea Salonga] find themselves torn between loyalty to their family and allegiance to their country. With its moving score, Allegiance — A New American Musical takes audiences on a journey into our nation's history through the eyes of one American family."
According to earlier production notes, "Takei and his family, along with 120,000 other Japanese Americans, were unjustly incarcerated behind the barbed-wire enclosures of United States internment camps at the outbreak of World War II. Takei spent part of his childhood at Camp Rohwer in Arkansas and at Camp Tule Lake in Northern California. Meeting Takei and hearing his personal story inspired Allegiance creators Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione to bring the story of the Japanese American internment to the stage."
Salonga, who won the Best Actress Tony Award and an Olivier Award for playing Kim in Miss Saigon, played Kei Kimura, "a young internee who falls in with a group of activists." Salonga's feature film credits include the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in "Aladdin" and Fa Mulan in "Mulan." She was the first Asian to play Eponine in Les Misérables on Broadway, returned to the show in 2007 as Fantine and reprised the role for the sold-out 25th anniversary concert in London.
Leung, of Broadway's Godspell, Flower Drum Song, Rent, Pacific Overtures and TV's "Glee," played young Sammy Kimura, "who is torn between fighting for his country and honoring his community — and his family." His first solo CD, "I'll Cover You," was recently released.
Acito (book) wrote the book and additional lyrics for the Globe's world-premiere production of A Room with a View. Acito's play Birds of a Feather, which tells the true story of the nationwide controversy caused by gay penguins in the Central Park Zoo, won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play or Musical for its world premiere at The Hub Theatre. Birds of a Feather will appear next at Diversionary Theatre. Acito will also return to the Hub to create a stage monologue adaptation of his first novel, "How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater," which won the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction, was Editors' Choice by The New York Times and was a Top Teen Pick by the American Library Association. Translated into five languages, it also inspired a sequel, "Attack of the Theater People."
Kuo (music, lyrics and book) marks his fourth musical with Allegiance. His composing career began at Stanford where he wrote and produced Upwardly Mobile, a coming of age story. Kuo's second musical comedy, Insignificant Others, played from 2006-08 in San Francisco at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, Zeum and Theatre 39 and won the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for Best Original Script. His third work, Worlds Apart, about star-crossed lovers in the cultural divide, performed in concert at San Francisco's Magic Theatre in late 2006 and in New York City at New World Stages in 2008. Kuo has also been part of the producing teams of many Broadway shows and national tours.
Thione (book) began working on Allegiance in 2008 alongside friend and composer Jay Kuo following an encounter with George Takei, whose experience in the internment camps inspired them to write a musical about this dark and mostly unknown chapter of American history. Thione is also a serial entrepreneur, theatre producer and community activist and was the co-founder of Powerset, Inc., an internet search company that was acquired by Microsoft in 2008 and whose technology was subsequently re-launched as part of Bing. He is the co-founder, chairman and president of Artify It, an internet-based startup that is bringing high-quality contemporary art within the reach of everyone. Thione also co-founded and helped grow StartOut, a national non-profit organization dedicated to fostering and developing the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders within the LGBT community.
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