Book by Linda Thorsen-Bond, William Repicci and Charles Busch
Orchestrations and Vocal arrangements by Bob McDowell
Directed by Michael Drury
Musical Direction by Gayle King
Marianne Zickuhr, Courtney Glenny, Shannan Speicher, Carrie Cooke Ketterman & Laura Ellis in Swingtime Canteen. Photo courtesy Pandora Productions.
Review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2016 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
Back in the days of WWII, while the boys were fighting against the axis powers, the true heroes remained on the home front. Not only were women left to raise the kids, cook, clean and work jobs for the war effort but, in some very special circumstances, women were brought to the front lines to entertain our boys. Yes, women did everything. Not much has changed, am I right? Pandora Production opens their season with Swingtime Canteen, a musical revue showcasing five distinctly strong women in a fictional USO show who, “Sing Sing Sing”, through good times and bad.
With a stage and costumes embellished with reds, whites, and blues, and taking obvious cues from The Andrews Sisters, this show is filled to the brim with classic patriotic wartime hits. Shannan Speicher, Courtney Glenny, Carrie Cooke Ketterman, Laura Ellis, and Marianne P. Zickuhr beautifully blend their voices from start to finish. Their silky smooth harmonies shine in “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” and the always sentimental, “I’ll Be Seeing You.” This quintet brings out a rousingly entertaining version of crowd favorites “Pack Up Your Troubles” and “Ac-Cen-Tchu-Ate the Positive.” At their strongest moments these musical numbers are just as comforting and warming as a coffee and donuts served at the top of the show in, “Hollywood Canteen.”
Because this is a show about strong women, it’s only natural to have strong actresses play these characters. Shannan Speicher’s Marian gracefully hides her struggle to fight obscurity in a changing world as she name drops through her very own RSO show. A wise voice of resilience, Speicher’s performance allows us to reflect on modern conflicts as she so eloquently quips: “…the world is moving at such a fast clip.” Speicher’s melancholy version of “You’ll Never Know” is just lovely. Laura Ellis plays Marian’s quirky assistant, Jo. From picking at the bottom of her shoe to banging away on drums, Ellis plays the comedic bits perfectly. She gives a delightful performance of “Love Isn’t Born, It’s Made” as well. (Kudos Elaine Hackett for stepping in as a worthy dancing partner.)
The rest of the cast fulfills 40’s female archetypes. As Lilly, Carrie Cooke Ketterman is a brassy vamp in risqué short-shorts who defines the word bombshell in, “Daddy.” Marianne P Zickuhr is a tough-girl taking cues from Rosie the Riveter as Topeka. She may show her tough exterior in the breathless, “His Rocking Horse Ran Away”, but she reveals her tender side in, “My Shining Hour.” Courtney Glenny rounds out the cast as young and innocent Katie. She’s silly and fun as she provides squeaks and trills in the Andrews Sister’s medley but truly shines in her heartbreaking, “How High The Moon.”
Times sure have changed since 1945. With all the technological developments, political movements, and cultural developments, the era in which this show is set seems like a completely different world than the one we inhabit today. And yet, as these ladies in the Canteen yearn for change and a peaceful world, it makes me realize that however far we’ve come we still have far to go.
Cast: Shannan Speicher, Courtney Glenny, Carrie Cooke Ketterman, Laura Ellis and Marianne P. Zickuhr
September 15-25, 2016
Henry Clay Theatre
604 South 3rd Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!