Actor George Takei brings legacy project to stage with musical 'Allegiance'

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Actor George Takei makes it his mission to bring the story of Japanese-Americans and the World War II internment camps to the stage with the new musical "Allegiance." (KABC)

Actor George Takei is bringing his family's story to the stage in the musical "Allegiance."

It's a personal tale about a very dark time: Takei's family was one of thousands of Japanese Americans forced to leave their homes and move into internment camps during World War II. Takei calls the project his mission and an American story that all Americans should know about.

"This is a part of my life. I grew up behind American barbed wire fences," said Takei. "I was 5 when we were taken away."

The Takei family story helped inspire the musical, which looks at what happened to a family whose life is upended when they and 120,000 others were forced to live in camps.

The Los Angeles native wanted to make sure this musical was seen here, since Southern California has the largest number of Japanese Americans in the country.

"So, therefore, the largest number of people and families who have been touched by the internment reside here," said Takei. "This story is very personal to so many people. Even non-Japanese Americans who were living here at the time saw us being taken away, so it's their story as well."

Jay Kuo did the music and lyrics for "Allegiance," which ran on Broadway in 2015. He said audiences generally leave surprised by the content of the show.

"They come in expecting, 'Oh this is going to be heavy,' but instead they see the triumph of the human spirit," said Kuo. "And they see love and joy, and they see family, and I think, especially in these times, reconnecting with those values is so important."

One song in the show is called "Gaman," which essentially means to endure. Its message is a favorite among the audience and the cast.

"Strength, resilience. How do you find that in hard times?" said Elena Wang, who stars in the Los Angeles production. "Banding together and just finding a way. What an amazing message for everyday life."

And it's a message Takei is proud to put out for the world to see.

"It is enormously fulfilling," said Takei. "I call it my legacy project."

"Allegiance" is being co-produced by the East-West players and the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. The musical debuts Feb. 21 at the JACCC Aratani Theatre in downtown L.A.
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