This Is the Army, the World War II Irving Berlin musical, will get a rare special performance at Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York City this Veterans Day, November 11, at 9:30 PM.
Directed and produced by Jason Ferguson, the production is set to mark the 75th anniversary of the original Broadway production, which was performed entirely by members of the U.S. armed forces, then embroiled in World War II, on special assignment. Produced by “Uncle Sam,” the show was staged as a fundraiser for the Army Emergency Relief Fund, benefiting the wives, children, and parents of U.S. soldiers. The show lasted 113 performances in New York, and later toured the U.S. before heading overseas to entertain troops in active war zones in Europe and the Pacific.
The 1942 musical grew out of an earlier one, Yip! Yip! Yaphank!, which Berlin (listed in credits as Sgt. Irving Berlin) wrote as a morale rouser in1918 during World War I. That production was notable for Berlin’s personal performance of his sleepy-soldier lament, “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning.” Berlin repeated his performance in This Is the Army on Broadway, and again in the 1943 film version which co-starred Ronald Reagan, Kate Smith, George Murphy, and many other period stars.
The score of This Is the Army also features “This is the Army, Mr. Jones,” “Ladies of the Chorus,” and “God Bless America.”
The Feinstein’s/54 Below cast features Ally Bonino, Elijah Caldwell, Andy Christopher, Tommy McDowell, S.P. Monahan, and James Penca. Daniel M. Lincoln serves as musical director and orchestrator.
The 1942 This Is the Army had an original book by James McColl and Berlin. The concert book is by Jason Ferguson, based on The Songwriter Goes to War by Alan Anderson. This concert presentation will weave songs from the musical with a behind-the-curtain story of the soldiers involved, remembering how this troupe became the first racially integrated U.S. Army unit (though only off-stage), had openly gay soldiers who risked military prison, and avoided brushes with death during trips to combat zones.
Feinstein’s/54 Below is located at 254 West 54th Street, beneath Studio 54, in Manhattan. Tickets, which cost $30 to $40 (plus a $25 food/drink minimum), can be ordered here. Tickets on the day of performance after 4 PM are available only by calling (646) 476-3551.