It’s so depressing when a new musical that explores an important historical event turns out to have so many problems.
It happened earlier this season with “Amazing Grace” (about the abolitionist John Newton), and it’s also the case with “Allegiance,” which was inspired by the 120,000 Japanese-Americans who were forcibly removed from their homes and placed in internment camps during World War II.
78-year-old George Takei, who appears in a supporting role, was himself interned when he was a young boy and spearheaded the musical’s development.
Framed as a flashback, “Allegiance” shows how a West Coast family is taken at gunpoint to a camp in Wyoming, where the water is contaminated and medical supplies are limited.
While clean-cut son Sammy (Telly Leung), who develops feelings for a Caucasian nurse (Katie Rose Clarke), is eager to join the army and prove himself a patriotic American, fellow internee Frankie (Michael K. Lee) incites a protest against the government and receives support from Sammy’s older sister Kei (Lea Salonga).
The musical gets derailed by Jay Kuo’s weak score (full of derivative music and pedestrian lyrics), the busy, broad nature of the plotting and Stafford Arima’s unexciting staging.
The handsome Leung, who recently starred in “Glee,” highlights his character’s heated emotional transformation. Salonga, best known for “Miss Saigon,” has little to work with except a cheesy power ballad or two. Takei has a warm presence but is relegated to the background.
“Allegiance” does raise awareness about a dark, overlooked chapter in American history. But considering the show’s problems, it is unlikely to find a wide audience.
If you go: “Allegiance” plays an open run at the Longacre Theatre. 220 W. 48th St., allegiancemusical.com.