Musical pays tribute to World War II spirit


In the annual spring production by the Bates College theater department, Professor of Theater Paul Kuritz directs the World War II-era musical Swingtime Canteen in performances at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, March 11-13, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 13 and 14.

Admission is $6 for the public and $3 for Bates faculty and staff, senior citizens and non-Bates students. The performance is free to Bates students and WWII veterans. Performances will be held in Schaeffer Theatre, 305 College Avenue.

Written by Linda Thorsen Bond, William Repicci and Charles Busch, Swingtime Canteen is inspired by the films and personalities of the 1940s that reflected the state of mind behind the U.S. war effort against the Axis Powers in World War II. It premiered in 1995 and tallied more than 300 performances off Broadway, earning The New York Times’ description “a pleasure.” It has been performed all over the United States, in Canada and in London.

This upbeat, interactive play follows movie legend Marian Ames and her friends from the Hollywood Canteen while they put together a musical act to entertain the troops in London in 1943. Music abounds as these archetypal film characters of the 1940s sing more than 30 vintage classics from those heady years, including: “Don’t Fence Me In,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “Sing, Sing Sing,” “How High The Moon,” “I Don’t Want To Walk Without You,” and a 12-song Andrews Sisters medley.

Audience members become the troops at a canteen show, and at least one viewer can expect to find himself on stage dancing along with the actors.

Director Kuritz chose the play for both its musical content and emphasis on female roles, which provided a nice contrast with the male-dominated production of Hamlet last fall.

Although the play has the potential to make war look rosy, Kuritz insists his production makes no such statement. “The challenge, the great temptation, is to make a comment about the current war,” he says. Kuritz has tried to resist this temptation, choosing to let the audience decide for themselves by creating a performance that makes available “every possible point of view.”

The entertainment community’s response to World War II was markedly different from the current situation, he says, “and the question people can think about is, why?”

Victoria Stubbs, of Poland, Maine, is guest musical director for the production, working here through the Mellon Learning Associates Program in the Humanities at Bates. Stubbs has worked with Mad Horse Theater and teaches at the Portland Art and Technology High School. She has been vital in helping students master the close harmonies of the Andrews Sisters medley, Kuritz says.

For reservations or more information about the Bates College production of Swingtime Canteen, call 207-786-6161.

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