“Allegiance,” a musical about Japanese-Americans in United States internment camps during World War II, will begin performances on Broadway in October at a Shubert Theater to be announced later, the show’s producers said Thursday. The musical, which will cost a relatively hefty $13 million to mount, will star George Takei, who is best known as Mr. Sulu in the original “Star Trek” television series, and whose personal experiences in internment camps in Arkansas and California inspired “Allegiance.”
Mr. Takei, in a telephone interview, described the show as “very, very personal” and a tribute to his parents as well as the tens of thousands of people of Japanese ancestry – the majority of whom were American citizens – who were forcibly relocated to camps from 1942 to 1946 under an order by President Roosevelt. Mr. Takei said that he had invested a “substantial” amount of his own money in the musical, and that it features characters drawn from his family and life, including a grandfather character that Mr. Takei will portray in his Broadway debut.
“I consider this my legacy project,” said Mr. Takei, who is 77 and spent about four years of his childhood in two camps. “This is the first time that this dark chapter of American history will be done on the Broadway stage.”
Mindful that theatergoers often skip Broadway musicals that are tagged (however unfairly) as ruminations on history, like “The Scottsboro Boys” and “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” Mr. Takei highlighted the romantic subplots and centrality of baseball in “Allegiance,” as well as the overarching theme of family unity.
“The show’s backdrop is the imprisonment of innocent Americans simply because we looked like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor, but the story is universal – people falling in love, getting married, having a family,” Mr. Takei said. “The musical will find an audience because whether you are white, black, Latino, young or old, people can identify with the idea of family and the stresses put on a family, which in this case were enormous.”
“Allegiance” had its world premiere in 2012 at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego, receiving mixed reviews but drawing large and ethnically diverse audiences. Since then, Mr. Takei said, some scenes and dialogue have been tweaked but the show is essentially the same. The Old Globe cast included the Tony Award winner Lea Salonga (“Miss Saigon”) and Telly Leung (the 2011 Broadway revival of “Godspell”). Mr. Takei said Ms. Salonga and Mr. Leung were in negotiations to do “Allegiance” on Broadway but no casting beyond his was confirmed at this point.
The musical’s producers, Lorenzo Thione and Andrew Treagus, have been waiting for an available Broadway theater for about two years, but other shows – some more evidently commercial than “Allegiance,” and some flops – landed them first. “Allegiance” will arrive during a period of increasingly steady opportunities for Asian-American theater actors in New York: a Broadway revival of “The King & I” is set to open this spring, while the hit London revival of “Miss Saigon” looks likely to arrive on Broadway at some point, though probably not before the 2016-17 theater season.
“Allegiance,” which has a book by Marc Acito and music and lyrics by Jay Kuo, will be directed by Stafford Arima (Off Broadway’s “Carrie,” “Altar Boyz”). Preview performances are scheduled to begin Oct. 6, with an opening night of Nov. 8.
The musical grew out of a chance encounter several years ago that Mr. Takei and his husband, Brad, had with Mr. Thione and Mr. Kuo at back-to-back theater outings in New York, after which Mr. Takei shared his childhood memories of the camps over dinner.
“We talked for a long time about my childhood imprisonment, about my father’s anguish at being challenged over his loyalty to America – my dad was born in San Francisco and played baseball, my mother was born in Sacramento,” Mr. Takei said. “I’m a weeper, and when Jay emailed me a song after that, about my father and the idea of allegiance, I just gushed. I knew I had to do this.”