‘A Little Tokyo Christmas’ Returns Dec. 15

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“A Little Tokyo Christmas” will grace the stage on Saturday, Dec. 15, at 2 p.m. at the Aratani Theatre, 244 S. San Pedro St. in Little Tokyo.

Come and enjoy holiday music, dancing, laughter and a little Christmas shopping at the return of this holiday event. Don’t miss all the talented performers and community celebrities performing on stage and selling their crafts at the Holiday Gift Boutique, with proceeds to benefit free public programs at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center.

Produced and directed by Michael Hagiwara; musical direction by Dan Taguchi.

“‘A Little Tokyo Christmas’ started from a idea about eight years ago in 2010,” said Hagiwara. “I wanted to find away to bring the Little Tokyo community together for a holiday variety show. I got together with [actress]Emily Kuroda for coffee and started throwing ideas together.

“Having performed throughout the years with some amazing performers, I thought we could bring our friends together for a show. East West Players helped us and we put up the first event at their theater. Along with the show, crafters were set up in the courtyard to create ‘A Little Tokyo Christmas.’

The elves listen closely during a rehearsal for the show, which arose from Michael Hagiwara’s concept of a community-based holiday revue.

“The show brought together veteran performers from Broadway, East West Players performers and many other theater and comedy groups along with comedians and many celebrities. The show warmed the hearts of the community and brought rave reviews, so we repeated it in 2011 but have not done the event since.

“For many years, people kept asking, ‘When is “A Little Tokyo Christmas“ coming back?’ So this year I reached out to Helen Ota at the JACCC to talk about the possibilities of bringing the show back. She connected me with [Vice President of Programs] Alison De La Cruz and we found a date this year to bring the show back to Little Tokyo …

“The show will once again feature talented performers new and old, including the Cold Tofu improv group, the Grateful Crane Ensemble, and an original Christmas piece from Jason Fong.”

“As a writer and director for the stage, I’ve been intrigued by theater’s ability to ‘make you see what isn’t there.’ So, over the past 15 years, I have been developing a style of theater that takes the art of mime and combines it with sound effects, all in an attempt to create pictures inside the audience’s mind,” Fong explained. “For ‘A Little Tokyo Christmas,’ my friends and I will be presenting an original holiday story that will hopefully be fun, intriguing, and maybe a little magical.”

Fong’s segment will feature Aaron Aoki, Takayo Fischer, Loryce Hashimoto, Haruye Ioka, Kurt Kuniyoshi and Ping Wu.

Also joining the fun will be a senior citizen ukulele group, trapeze artist Kennedy Kabasares, some taiko, some hula, celebrity co-hosts, and many surprises. The Christmas boutique is back with unique crafters to create the full experience for the people who come to the show.

Musical director Dan Taguchi on saxophone.

“These last couple years have really divided our community and friends. Like the song says, ‘We need a little Christmas now,’ so I’m hoping to bring that to Little Tokyo,” Hagiwara added.

Performers include Jaime Barcelon, Kerry Carnahan, Marlene Yamane Chau, Zoe Chau, Janelle Dote, Lisa Horikawa, Yumi Iwama, Rodney Kageyama, Keiko Kawashima, Chanel Akiko Kipper, Darrell Kunitomi, Michael Murata, Clara Mulligan, Helen Ota, Mike Palma, Tripp Pickell, Diana Toshiko, Reuben Uy, Samantha Valdellon, Lit Villareal, Gedde Watanabe, Greg Watanabe, Allen Lucky Weaver and Grace Yoo.

Tickets: $25 general admission, $22 for seniors and students, $20 for JACCC members. Special rates for groups of 10 or more. For reservations, contact the Aratani Theatre Box Office at (213) 680-3700 or [email protected]

Photos courtesy of EMILY KURODA and MICHAEL HAGIWARA

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