Local Impacts Broadway

There is an obscure musical entitled “Zanna, Don’t!” in which every societal norm and expectation is turned inside out and upside down. LGBT individuals are the norm; sports and their fans are rare, and activities like chess and theatre are popular. A standout line in the show is, “If musical theatre won’t address important, political issues, what will?” Obviously, it is meant to be a punchline. What a strange, foreign and hilarious idea that musical theatre, a uniquely American art form, would discuss anything worthwhile or pertinent to today’s status quo. While there are certainly already examples in the annals of Broadway history to combat that stereotype, it is becoming more and more common for socially conscious theatre to become popular. “Allegiance” is one such show, a sterling example of where the tradition of musical theatre is headed.

By complete coincidence, “Allegiance” creators Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione were seated next to George Takei and his husband at an Off-Broadway show. For those who are unaware, George Takei, now 78, is perhaps most famous for his work as Hikaru Sulu, the helmsman of U.S.S. Enterprise in the original series of the seminal, classic sci-fi television series “Star Trek,” a show that is to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2016. The show premiered in the 1960s, in the height of the civil rights movement, and was a pioneer in racial diversity in casting as well as overall, racial visibility on television. It is no surprise to learn then that Takei, who was forced to enter an internment camp at five years old with his family, calls raising awareness about the history of Japanese-Americans his “life mission.” Kuo, Thione and Takei’s conversation led to the creation of “Allegiance,” a new musical built on Takei’s childhood experiences in a Japanese internment camp. The show serves as Takei’s Broadway debut as well as an all-purpose star vehicle. No pun intended.

allegiance-broadway-5952922-regularMusicals require more than an idea and creative spark to get off the ground, however. Many forget that theatre is also a business, and that means a production requires producers. That’s right, a production, most especially one of the caliber seen on The Great White Way requires money.

Dr. Brad Calobrace is a local plastic surgeon, and his love of theatre is widely known. “I listen to the Broadway channel in the OR all the time. I sing Broadway all the time. I’m on the board for the Louisville Theatrical Association as well as on the board for Broadway of Louisville,” he relates.  Dr. Calobrace is in a position to help fund the projects he believes in. He’s done it locally with many of the shows in the seasons of Derby Dinner Playhouse, Broadway Across America and Pandora Productions, and thanks to some acquaintances, he has also enjoyed producing on the Broadway stage for such shows as “Catch Me If You Can” and “American Idiot.” Producing for “Allegiance” will mark as another feather in Dr. Calobrace’s seasoned producer’s cap.

By producing these other shows, Dr. Calobrace became part of Sing Out, Louise!, a production company with an appropriate “Gypsy” reference as a name. The early stages of “Allegiance” began in 2008-09, but even upon seeing the show in its nascent form, Dr. Calobrace was intrigued. “It so resonates even though it goes back to all those years ago where the people’s heritage made them sort of question their allegiance to this country through no fault of their own for what they had personally done. I just thought it was a pertinent subject and that enough time has passed to actually talk about this subject of the Japanese internment camp. It has all the things that make a good story: love, family, honor. How do you go through life with this sort of challenge in front of you?”

There is a great idea, fueled by passion and talent, funded responsibly and securely; all the pieces are in place for this unique musical. It is worth mentioning that the cast and creative team are almost entirely of Asian descent, so the story will be told honestly though nearly every facet of the production. With any luck, “Allegiance” will start a trend, and more voices, long since thought silenced, will continue to be heard. Hopefully, more locals like Dr. Brad Calobrace will continue to lead the way. “Allegiance” opens on Sunday November 8 at the Longacre Theatre in New York. Grab your tickets now to witness history. VT