George Takei has plenty of practice exploring strange new worlds on TV and film, but delving into a painful time in his family’s life onstage is something even he never imagined.
Takei and his family were among thousands of Japanese-Americans put in internment camps during World War II. The 75-year-old “Star Trek” actor’s memories inspired composer/lyricist Jay Kuo to write “Allegiance — A New American Musical,” which has high hopes of making it to Broadway.
Takei and Tony Award-winner Lea Salonga (“Miss Saigon”) headline the production at The Old Globe in San Diego. Set to open Wednesday, the show follows a Japanese-American war veteran played by Takei who looks back on his family’s time in an internment camp.
“I wanted to turn my childhood experience in the internment camps that we were in into a script. Jay said a musical is much more moving and you’ll reach many more people with a musical,” Takei said in an interview.
Kuo, who co-wrote the play with Marc Acio and producer Lorenzo Thione, understands some people may be skeptical about the idea of internment camps being musical fodder. But he said sometimes a song is the best form of expression, especially in a culture that prides steadfastness and stoicism.
“Asian-Americans don’t really speak an emotional language. Music gives us that permission. In many ways, I think it’s been a huge help for the story to have it told through music,” said Kuo, who also sifted through numerous essays, oral histories and old congressional testimonies from internment survivors.