The United Services Organization (USO) and the Armed Forces Entertainment (AFE) have postponed their plans to send out their first Broadway division since the close of the Vietnam War, more than 25 years ago. The outfit — which was to have featured stars such as Sherie Rene Scott, Alice Ripley and Patrick Wilson — would have performed at U.S. and Allied forces military bases and installations around the Mediterranean and in Turkey, where troops engaged in the new war on terrorism are preparing to enter Afghanistan.
However, co-producer Kurt Deutsch told Playbill On-Line on Nov. 26 that the tour had been set aside for the time being. On Nov. 21, just before Thanksgiving weekend, the USO decided that the timing was not right to take such a large troupe into a war zone. The USO, AFE, and producers Deutsch and David Obele hope to re-group in the spring.
Daisy Prince, the daughter of famed director Harold Prince and stager of such shows as Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years, would have directed the revue. Brown himself had signed on as music director. Michael Arnold of 42nd Street was choreographer. The production would have played two shows daily, from Dec. 12 to Dec. 23.
The project was the brainchild of Obele, who, during his years with the American Theatre Wing, looked back with fondness on the days of the ATW-sponsored Stage Door Canteen, which entertained servicemen during World War II. "I always said that our community couldn't do that again," Obele told Playbill On-Line. "We always ask how much before we ask what." The events of Sept. 11, however, encouraged him to resurrect the good will of the past. He called the USO and the AFE and floated the idea of corralling a group of Broadway artists for the entertainment of wartime troops (the help of the film and music industries has already been marshalled). The military organizations instantly approved of the idea, and Obele and co-producer Kurt Deutsch, of Sh-K-Boom Records, began their search for participants.
Among the 19 who said yes were tap dancing wonder Savion Glover, Aida star Sherie Rene Scott, Rocky Horror's Alice Ripley, The Full Monty's Patrick Wilson, B.J. Crosby of Smokey Joe's Cafe, Billy Porter of Miss Saigon, A Class Act's Sara Ramirez and two drummers from Keep Bangin'. The cast would have performed a 90-minute show of Broadway and pop standards, backed up by a six-piece band, under the direction of Brown. (Brown has often acted as musical director on his own shows and those of other composers.)
Between the time when Odele called the USO and AFE and the moment when the Pentagon gave its official approval of the enterprise, only one week elapsed.