Friday, June 10, 2011

OnStage Playhouse’s rendition of Swingtime Canteen

By Natalie Susi

The ladies from the Swingtime Canteen at OnStage Playhouse.  Photography by Adriana Williams-ZunigaSwingtime Canteen,directed by Brett Daniels, takes place in 1944, and is a musical based on 4 female characters that leave their stage at the Hollywood Canteen to go to London and entertain the troops. The oldest woman and leader of the group is Marian Ames (Kat Fitzpatrick). Ames is a famous Oscar award winning actress who has endured 4 movie flops and is now considered a has-been in the industry. Lilly McBain (Janell McCuistion) has been Ames’ stand-in for 16 of her films. Jo Sterling who is played by Jessica Stamper is the sexiest and most provocative of the bunch with long blonde hair and a suggestive outfit. This suits her character as she boldly states that she loves living a champagne lifestyle and isn’t afraid to use a man to do it. Finally, there is Katie Gammersflugel (Hannah M. James ) a naïve young woman who is also the niece of Marian Ames.

While Swingtime Canteen’s actresses were appealing in their singing and dancing, I personally couldn’t connect to the musical because I wasn’t familiar with the music or with the famous people Ames was referring to, so a lot of the musical was lost on me. The most appealing part of the whole show was when the women sang the ballad, I’ll Be Seeing You. I was familiar with this song, so I enjoyed hearing it. I thought the song Ames sang, Don’t Fence Me In, while dressed in her cowgirl getup was entertaining as well. Other songs included:  Sing Sing Sing, How High the Moon, I Don't Want to Walk without You, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive, Sentimental Journey, Apple Blossom Time.

Swingtime Canteen brings back the time of WWII with its popular music, and its appeal of the people who actually endured living during this tragic time period. It clarifies what it felt like to be a family member of a soldier or a soldier themselves. Marian, Lilly, Jo, and Katie are not only entertainers, but they also represent the women of this time who stepped up to work while the men were away fighting. The musical lacks much of a story line as the main point of the whole performance is for the women to perform a concert for the audience who is acting as the troops. It mostly consists of the women singing song after song with short interludes to introduce their next number, or in one case, to deal with an air raid. If you are familiar with, or enjoy songs from this era, you will enjoy the show.

Swingtime Canteen is playing at OnStage Playhouse till June 25th. It is a 90-minute musical and is performed without an intermission.  For more information or for tickets go to or call at 619-422-7787.

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