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15 Questions With Stage Actor Ethan Le Phong of Wartime Musical “Allegiance”

Ethan Le Phong takes us behind the scenes of the Hawai‘i premiere of the wartime story inspired by the true-life Japanese-American internment experience of original star, George Takei.


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Ethan Le Phong
Photo: Brandon Miyagi / Mānoa Valley Theatre

 

This is the final week of the production of Allegiance, the headliner of Mānoa Valley Theatre’s 50th Anniversary season, presented at the Hawai‘i Theatre March 28–April 7. 

 

Allegiance is a musical drama telling the story of the Japanese-American internment during World War II through one family’s experience, inspired by the true-life experience of its original star, George Takei of Star Trek fame.

 

Visiting actor Ethan Le Phong, recently in Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway, chatted with us about his experience here in the Islands.

 

 

HONOLULU Magazine: Where did you grow up? 

Ethan Le Phong: I was born in Vietnam and spent my childhood in Chicago. 

 

HN: How do you describe your upbringing? 

ELP: Traditional upbringing with a mixture of all-American and Vietnamese values. 

 

HN: Any hero or role models?

ELP: My family. My parents raised me up right and seeing how my siblings live their lives motivates me to live a better and well-rounded life. 

 

HN: Since you’ve been in Hawai‘i, what’s become your favorite food?

ELP: Fresh pineapples! 

 

Ethan Le Phong

Photo: Courtesy of MĀNOA VALLEY THEATRE

 

HN: What’s the most memorable theatrical moment you’ve had during a production? 

ELP: Having Stephen Schwartz in the audience on the opening night of playing [the title role in] Pippin at East West Players. 

 

HN: Which character, from any play you’ve been in, have you enjoyed the most?

ELP: Performing the role of Luntha in The King & I. I will never get tired of singing Rodgers and Hammerstein music.

 

HN: What’s your dream role?  

ELP: Aladdin has been my dream role and to have played it both on Broadway and in [London’s] West End was/is a dream come true.

 

Ethan Le Phong

PHOTO: COURTESY OF ETHAN LE PHONG 

 

HN: What is the significance of this play? 

ELP: Giving a voice to the Japanese-American experience in a dark time of American history. 

 

HN: Is there something from Allegiance that will shock people?

ELP: I think some of the historic images that the audience will find themselves face to face with will hit home hard. 

 

HN: Which local celebrity would you love to see in the audience here in Honolulu?

ELP: Daniel Dae Kim came to see the show the other day, which was pretty cool though he’s a buddy of mine—so does that still count?

 

Ethan Le Phong

PHOTO: COURTESY OF ETHAN LE PHONG 

 

HN: Favorite gift from Hawai‘i you’ve ever received? 

ELP: My collection of lei. They smell wonderful along with being beautiful. 

 

HN: What advice would you give people from Hawai‘i who are looking to break into theater?  

ELP: Roll up your sleeves because this isn’t an easy career. Prepare to work really hard and if you don’t like hard work, get out. 

 

HN: Finally, what’s your favorite Hawaiian phrase?

ELP: Mahalo. Mahalo to the sun, the water and the beautiful people of Hawai‘i. 

 

Ethan Le Phong

PHOTO: COURTESY OF ETHAN LE PHONG 

 

HN: What do you hope people say about about you when you leave a room?

ELP: My mom would love him as a son-in-law. LOL.

 

HN: Anything you’d like to tell our Honolulu audience? 

ELP: I am always on the run and at times, I don’t know how to slow down. So perhaps, take a moment to breathe and enjoy life to the fullest.

 

Read more stories by Robbie Dingeman

 

 

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