Today is the final day of callbacks for Allegiance. Two hundred days from now (yes, I'm counting — please don't judge) we open on Broadway.
Allegiance marks my Broadway debut, and so I'm determined to relish every moment; to enjoy "every little step I take." (Happy 40th anniversary, A Chorus Line!) Indeed, I made a promise to myself — and then out loud, to the team — that I wouldn't become neurotic about it.
Unfortunately, for writers neurosis is part of our job description.
After a week of preliminary auditions, I've learned why most authors only go to callbacks. Much has already been written about how hard it is to audition (see A Chorus Line, above) but very little about what it's like to sit on the other side of the table. Imagine speed-dating all day, for days on end. With each new person, you hope to fall in love, but the only conversation consists of that person reading your diary out loud. That line I haven't fixed yet that makes me cringe? I have to hear it 40 times.
Every actor with the guts to walk in the door faces the theatrical equivalent of a Senate sub-committee. And since we're at the offices of Telsey + Co., we know how tall they really are when they walk in that door.
Our friendly faces are real, though they don't show the casting algebra calculating at all times.
"It's a puzzle," says our director Stafford Arima, who always tries to cast each role "three deep." He explains, "I'm thinking about the opening night cast, the covers, and then the covers of the covers."
Lea Salonga, Telly Leung, George Takei, Paolo Montalban Star in New Musical Allegiance
It's like putting together a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle when you're handed only ten pieces at a time. Only each piece is a living, breathing human being with feelings and frailties — and rent payments due.
I'm astonished when bleary-eyed Broadway veterans come in exhausted from their previews the night before. I'm amazed when bleary-eyed college kids race here straight from the airport. Either way, the sheer humanity of the actors makes me cry on the subway ride home like I'm a crazy person. The woman next to me even moves a seat away.
Or perhaps it's because the show itself is so emotional, based as it is on the inspirational story of actor George Takei's family overcoming their unjust imprisonment during World War II.
Love, courage, belted high D's. It's exhilarating to experience that for two and a half hours in the theatre. It's exhausting to go through it every day for a week.
But then a Japanese-American actor begins her audition by telling her own family story of parents and children torn apart. She thanks us for shedding light on a rarely told part of the American experience.
That's when I'm reminded of why we're here, how we've all come together to help George fulfill his legacy and honor 120,000 true American heroes. What I feel, what we all feel, goes beyond words in a way that only a musical can.
Then the actor takes her place and begins to sing.