A “Gilmore Girls” skit featured (from left) Helen Ota, Keiko Agena, Mike Palma, Aaron Shizuo Aoki and Will Choi.
By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
PASADENA — In celebration of the “Gilmore Girls” revival on Netflix, Cold Tofu presented an improv show titled “A Night in Stars Hollow” on Nov. 19 at Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena.
The special guest was Keiko Agena, who reprises her role as Lane Kim in “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life,” which premiered on Nov. 25. The four-part miniseries, with each movie-length episode representing a season, reunites Lauren Graham as Lorelai Gilmore, Alexis Bledel as her daughter Rory, and most of the cast of the original series, which ran from 2000 to 2007.
Keiko Agena with Nisei Week First Princess Megan Ono and Princess Shannon Tsumaki.
In addition to other TV credits such as “Shameless,” “Scandal,” “Twisted” and “Grimm,” Agena performs with the improv comedy groups Ham Radio, RJP, and Totally Heather. Also a drummer, she plays with her husband Shin Kawasaki’s group, MidTones, and was part of a reunion of Hep Alien (Lane’s band on “Gilmore Girls”) at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas last year. In addition, she has a book coming out in 2018.
The show began with a scripted skit set in the future at Luke’s Diner in Stars Hollow, the fictional Connecticut town where “Gilmore Girls” is set. Lane has issues with her twin sons (Aaron Shizuo Aoki and Will Choi) and her daughter (Helen Ota). Emily Kuroda, who plays Lane’s mom, was unavailable as she was performing in a play in Boston, so Michael C. Palma took on the role. (Kuroda also appears, briefly, in the “Gilmore Girls” revival.)
Aaron Takahashi served as emcee.
An improv sketch was based on an audience member’s favorite “Gilmore Girls” episode, “Farewell, My Pet,” in which Lorelai arranges a funeral service for Michel’s dog and decides to break up with Christopher.
The cast, which also included Jully Lee, artistic director, Jhemon Lee and Johnny Ye, created more sketches based on audience suggestions, including divorce, the difficulty of keeping pet sea monkeys alive, “The Dating Game” with Captain America, Oscar the Grouch and Napoleon as contestants, and the grand finale — a musical love story set in a coffee shop on Mars. Musical accompaniment was provided by Howard Ho.
Jully Lee noted that Cold Tofu is 35 years old and recognized one of the founding members, Marilyn Tokuda, who was in the audience. Along with Denice Kumagai, Judy Momii and Irma Escamilla, Tokuda wanted to perform comedy and also provide an opportunity for Asian American actors to perform and explore comedy. The group has performed across the country and now teaches improv workshops.
Cold Tofu board member Aaron Takahashi served as emcee. Nisei Week First Princess Megan Ono and Princess Shannon Tsumaki sold raffle tickets and took part in the drawing for prizes, which included “Gilmore Girls” merchandise.
The Fob Four performed Beatles tunes plus the theme song from “Gilmore Girls.”
The show was preceded by a mini-concert by the Beatles cover band Fob Four, featuring Shannon Wong (bass and vocals), Frank Rocco (drums), Brian Yamamoto (lead vocals and guitar), Tony Yamamoto (keyboards), Kurt Yamamoto (lead guitar and vocals), and Mia Yamamoto (guitar and vocals).
The set closed with a non-Beatles tune, the theme song from “Gilmore Girls,” an updated version of Carole King’s “Where You Lead,” with vocals by Wong’s wife Michelle.
Helen Ota, Michael Palma and Jully Lee sing in the big finale.
Food was provided by Kona Ice and the India Jones Chow Truck.
Cold Tofu’s final show of the year will be held on Saturday, Dec. 10, at 7:30 p.m. at St. Francis Xavier Church, Japanese Catholic Center (Maryknoll), 222 S. Hewitt St. in Los Angeles. Admission is $7. Valet parking available for $5 with Cold Tofu validation (entrance on Third Street). For more information, visit www.coldtofu.com.
Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo