In Saachiko and Dom Magwili’s entertaining musical, “A Jive Bomber’s Christmas,” Jive Bomber is the nickname that a wheeling-dealing Nisei, Jackson (Mike Hagiwara), uses at an unnamed World War II Japanese American internment camp in December 1943. The fourth edition of this well-acted production features the original cast members, with two more venues added this year.
Very little seems merry in those desert camps--living behind barbed wire in shacks with paper-thin walls, listening to rumors that Japanese American soldiers fighting in Europe are used as “cannon fodder.” Jackson finds solace in bartering goods and listening to popular music, while pining for nervous and overly serious Kei (Keiko Kashiwagi), the sister of his best friend (Darrell Kunitomi).
Annoyed by Jackson’s frivolity, Kei becomes more so when she’s forced to share her quarters with a Hawaiian Japanese American entertainer. Of course, in keeping with the holiday spirit, rough waters are smoothed over. Hoping to elevate morale, Kei arranges a Christmas party, complete with a talent show that includes witty skits and an array of Christmas songs and period favorites.
The writers manage to cram in history lessons and examine the political and cultural divisions among the interned Japanese Americans without being preachy or boorish. As directors, they sweeten the bitter edge with good-natured humor. The five actors, all in more than one part, harmonize well as an acting and singing ensemble. Janice Terukina shines as both the sassy, brassy Mitzi and the nerdy Alice.
* “A Jive Bomber’s Christmas,” Faith United Methodist Church, 2115 W. 182nd St., Torrance, Sunday, 3 and 7 p.m. West L.A. United Methodist Church, 1913 Purdue Ave., Dec. 18-19, 8 p.m.; Dec. 21, 7 p.m. $10. (310) 217-1643. Running time: 2 hours.