Seventy years and two generations later, classic songs from the 1940s will be brought back to life by five young Japanese American women portraying real-life Nisei singers who sang these songs that brought joy, hope and inspiration to their fellow Nisei confined behind barbed wires.
In “Nisei Serenade,” Grateful Crane’s Next Generation Youth – Aimee Machida, Erika Mariko Olsen, Miko Shudo, Alyssa Nakamoto and Lisa Horikawa – will be sharing the history and performing Nisei stories and songs on Saturday, June 29 at 2 p.m. at the Centenary United Methodist Church in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo.
Written by Soji Kashiwagi, directed by Alison Minami with musical direction by Scott Nagatani, the one-act show begins in present day at the Keiro Retirement Home in Los Angeles. After a performance of 1940s songs, a Keiro senior approaches Grateful Crane’s youth singers and takes them on a journey back in time to 1944, when five young Nisei singers were brought in from camps across America to perform at a special one-night-only show at Heart Mountain.
“Our scenario of five young singers coming into camp for a one-night only show didn’t actually happen,” said Soji Kashiwagi, Executive Producer of Grateful Crane. “But the Nisei singers they’re portraying are based on real people, the songs they will be singing are real and the stories they will be telling are real,” said Kashiwagi.
Adding further authenticity to the show will be a special guest appearance by Mary Kageyama Nomura, aka the “Songbird of Manzanar” who at age 16 delighted her fellow Nisei by singing all the favorite songs of the era at camp dances, concerts and weddings. Today at 87, Mary is a great grandmother who still loves to sing – and she will be doing just that to close the show. Long-time Grateful Crane member Darrell Kunitomi also appears as the MC of the “Nisei Serenade” show in camp.
Some of the songs the youth will be singing include At Last, How High the Moon, I Could Write A Book, Mister Five By Five, I Had the Craziest Dream, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Over the Rainbow, Apple Blossom Time, Dream and Rum & Coca Cola.
“And of course, given their situation in camp, ‘Accentuate the Positive’ is a must for this show,” said Kashiwagi.
The Centenary United Methodist Church is located at 300 South Central Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. Tickets are $25 general admission, $20 for seniors (65 & older) and groups of ten or more and $10 for youth (25 and younger).
For reservations, call the Grateful Crane ticket line at (310) 995-5841.