A Jive Bomber's Christmas (play)

Musical play set in a World War II concentration camp by Saachiko and Dom Magwili. First produced for the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in 1994, A Jive Bomber's Christmas became a holiday tradition in Los Angeles, enjoying a nine-year run and subsequent revivals in Los Angeles and in Hawai'i. The play was based in part on Saachiko Magwili's childhood memories of Heart Mountain and shares a structural similarity with Dom Magwili's earlier Christmas in Camp, first produced at East West Players in 1981.

The play is set in December of 1943 and centers on Kei Aragaki, a serious young woman who corresponds with her brother, Hideo, an American soldier in Italy, and Hideo's best friend, the zoot suited swing jazz buff, Jackson Omata, nicknamed the "jive bomber." Promising her brother she will help to keep inmates' morale up, she and Jackson—along with her brassy Hawai'i Nisei roommate Mitzi—decide to put on a Christmas show, just as Hideo goes missing in action. The play's second act consists mostly of the Christmas show itself, including popular songs of the time performed by the cast. The playwrights also introduce a subplot surrounding the tensions between military volunteers and No-No Boys.

The play struck a chord with its audience and drew standing room only crowds at JANM, resulting in its return each year. In 1997, cast member Mike Hagiwara produced performances of the play at other venues in Los Angeles and other parts of California and Washington in subsequent years. The original cast—Jason Fong, Keiko Kashiwagi, Darrell Kunitomi, and Janice Terukina, in addition to Hagiwara—retired from the show in 2000 after a series of performances in Honolulu. JANM introduced a new cast in Los Angeles that year and reprised the show two more times. After a four year hiatus, they revived the show again in 2006. In 2011, Honolulu's Kumu Kahua Theatre produced its version of the show, which also traveled to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in January 2012.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

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For More Information

"'A Jive Bomber's Christmas' Returns with New Cast at Japanese American National Museum in December," Japanese American National Museum press release, Dec. 1, 2000, http://www.janm.org/press/release/22/.

Foley, E. Kathleen. "Theater Review: A Bittersweet 'Jive Bomber's Christmas.'" Los Angeles Times, Dec. 9, 1995, http://articles.latimes.com/1995-12-09/entertainment/ca-12274_1_jive-bomber-s-christmas.

Monji, Jana J. "'Jive Bomber' Sings a Nisei Camp Story." Los Angeles Times, Dec. 9, 1997, http://articles.latimes.com/1997/dec/09/entertainment/ca-62055.

Yadao, Allen. "A Jive Bomber's Christmas: Musical Brings Internment Camp Experience to Hawaii," Hawaii Herald, Nov. 17, 2000, A-15.