A Chat with George Takei on Bringing "Allegiance" to the Big Screen

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Kerry Breen

On Dec. 4, 2018, a documentary about George Takei’s 2015 musical Allegiance played in theatres through Fathom Events, followed by a showing of the filmed musical on Dec. 11. Leading up to the release of the documentary and the encore of the filmed show, Takei spoke with OnStage Blog about the path Allegiance has taken.

“We hadn’t the faintest idea when we embarked on this journey ten years ago what the road would be like,” said Takei. “But at every point along its path, from development, to the World Premiere in San Diego, to the Broadway run, and now to the post-Broadway productions and movie, it has been a joy, and so profoundly humbling and fulfilling.”

Allegiance tells the story of the Kimura family, a Japanese family wrongfully imprisoned in an internment camp during World War II. The production ran at Broadway’s Longacre Theatre from October 6, 2015 to February 14, 2016. It starred Takei, Lea Salonga, and Telly Leung, and had music and lyrics by Jay Kuo, and a book by Kuo, Marc Acito, and Lorenzo Thione.

The story is based on Takei’s own experiences – as a child, he and his family were in one of the internment camps. He based the story not only on his own experiences, but on information shared by his father as well.

“I sought out my own experiences and remembrances with my father to inform and ground each and every performance,” Takei said. “In large measure, because I was a rather innocent and young child during the internment, this was a tribute to the generations above me, for whom the internment was a deep, deep wound. So what I felt was a deep obligation to tell their story and to sear into our collective consciousness the lessons of our shared history.”

According to Takei, working on Allegiance was extremely important to him.

“There is no greater sense of purpose to me that fulfilling this legacy, this dream,” he said. “It has been my life’s mission, and to see it come to fruition is simply indescribable.”

While Allegiance closed in 2016, the story has been shared widely across the country. The production was filmed on DATE, and that recording has been shown in theatres multiple times, including in December 2016, February 2017, and December 2017, as well as the upcoming Dec. 11 showing.

There is also the upcoming documentary, released through Fathom Events on Dec. 4.

“At every point along our road to Broadway, we have made the effort to film and document our progress, because we know that this was more than just a show,” Takei said. “It was an important and historic event. So it was a “no brainer” for us to also document and preserve the final few weeks of rehearsal and previews before we opened on Broadway. This was not only about the story of Allegiance, it was also the story behind Allegiance. We had to persevere and struggle in our own way to make create and mount this show, which no one ever believed would happen.”

The show will also continue on in various live productions. A large production will take place in spring 2019 in Honolulu, as part of the Manoa Valley Theater’s 50th Anniversary Season.

“Hawaii is of course home to much of the story behind Allegiance, with the inciting Pearl Harbor attack and the contribution of the Japanese Hawaiian soldiers in the all-Japanese American 100th and 442nd regimental brigades,” Takei explained. “So that will feel like something of a homecoming for the show, which drew a great deal of financial backing also from residents of Hawaii.”

There have also been regional productions, including a 2018 production that again starred Takei.

“It has been so heartwarming to see productions spring up around the country to tell our story to new audiences, and to see tens of thousands of people flock to the theater to watch it as well,” Takei continued. “We have always said Broadway was just the beginning, and now we get to enjoy watching Allegiance take root in all manner of new venues and communities.”

Takei said that, overall, he just hopes audiences continue to learn from the history Allegiance presents.

Allegiance and its story continue to have very current resonance in our culture, precisely because the dark forces that drove America to unjustly intern 120,000 of its citizens and residents continue to haunt our political and social landscape,” he said. “We created Allegiance in the hopes that we would share the lessons and mistakes of our past so that we do not repeat them again, ever, in our history to come. I will continue to tell our story and urge others to share it, because it remains so vital and important.”