Allegiance – The Musical

Allegiance is this new musical starring George Takei (better known as Mr. Sulu from the original Star Trek).  He’s gained somewhat of a cult following through various forms of social media (Twitter, Facebook).  He provides socio-political commentary via these forms of social media recently with the new Trump administration’s Muslim Ban.  Unfortunately, he also wasn’t spared the recent sexual harassment allegations that has some high profile stars falling from grace.

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Putting all the non-theater/non-musical issues aside,  this musical portrays the struggles of a Japanese Americans during World War 2 and the Japanese internment camps.  In particular, the story revolves around a family and their struggles.  Although probably not without controversy itself, this musical has a number of unique aspects that other musicals so far have not done.

  1. It’s produced by Asian Americans.
  2. It has a predominant Asian American cast.
  3. It puts the Japanese internment and it’s ramifications as a talking point.

The music has a very “classical musical” feel with strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion well represented.  Spoken dialog is interspersed throughout.  The character solos have that aspirational feel.  The company songs have a mix of genres that range from traditional Japanese songs used in festivals to the more modern 1940s swing with respect to the time period.  Honestly, it didn’t hit me with a wow factor like Rent (I actually disliked it initially) or Hamilton (I really loved it).

When watching the musical, I was struck by a number of different themes… some specifically Asian American but others more relevant to the current times.  The first memorable theme occurred near the beginning of the play when the father made an interesting side comment of “not an A student but A minus.”  This totally plays into the stereotypical High Expectation Asian Dad meme.  If you don’t know, Asian parents have a very low tolerance for their children’s academic failure.  Even Chloe Kim’s dad wants her to go to college!  And she won a gold medal at the recent PyeongChang Winter Olympics!

Another theme that stayed with me was the power of the women especially Kei (the female lead) in the internment camps.  Despite Asian culture being a patriarchal society favoring males over females, I find that Asian families nowadays tend to have a power dynamics emanating from the females.  Certainly that was the case in the musical.  And with the recent #MeToo movement and much talk of the disparity between men and women, it made me think that this particular theme holds a pretty significant place as one of the major themes in the musical.  It was Kei who took over as the de facto mother when the real mother died.  It was Kei who tried to keep the peace in the household between her brother and her dad.  It was also Kei who stayed to take care of her grandfather up until the grandfather’s death.  It was also Kei who again tried to patch things with her brother immediately after the war when he returned.  And at the end, it was Kei who also again reached out to try to reconcile with her brother AFTER she had died.  Honestly, modern society gives women way too little credit for the amount of work and amount of shit they have to put up with.

I would recommend watching this musical to think about the different themes that occurred in the 1940s that are still ongoing today: immigration, racism, segregation, civil disobedience, patriotism, family, power of women and forgiveness.

Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton.  The Ten DollarFounding Father.  And now a modern musical!?Music and lyrics written by the talented Lin Manuel Miranda.  Ya… the same Lin-Manuel who already has a Tony for best musical for In the Heights.  His use of hip hop and rap into the musical scene is as groundbreaking as Rent‘s introduction of modern rock.  Although not his first musical to use hip hop, it was the one that swept the musical scene and spilled over into the common American pop culture.

When Rent was first introduced, I didn’t like the music because of it’s use of rock ballads and guitar riffs.  Little that I know that this genre would influence many of the later musicals that used this genre and other rock influences in the music.  Upon first listening to Hamilton on YouTube, I was struck by the realization that hip hop has finally invaded the musical scene and was immediately hooked by the music.  I was more hooked on the music than I was with In the Heights.  However listening to In the Heights again, that musical has a more Latin feel using Latin American music like salsa, merengue, and samba.

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Hamilton represents two things… the popularization of musicals in modern mainstream culture and the acceptance of hip hop/rap/R&B into musicals.  I think the latter will have more of a larger effect for future musicals.  Until the next big thing to come out of the musical world, I highly recommend trying to get face value tickets to Hamilton when it comes to a city near you.

Hamilton AMEX presale

I was trying to get the Hamilton Touring AMEX presale via Ticketmaster today.  Their algorithm is horrible.  A customer HAS to choose a particular day first and their price point(s), why is there no option to just get best available for a price point(s) regardless of day?  I’m almost positive given the mad rush to get tickets, people would be happy enough to get tickets for ANY DAY at ANY TIME.  I swear the Ticketmaster system is a horrid piece of shit system.

In the end I couldn’t even get tickets as they kicked me off the system.  I was even just settling to purchase single seat tickets.