The score of Sweetwater, a new musical about “the unsung female pilots of World War II” will be sung indeed in a 9:30 PM July 17 showcase at Feinstein’s/54 Below cabaret in New York City.
The 9:30 PM show will tell the story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (known as WASPs), more than a thousand women who flew missions for the U.S. Air Force during WWII.
The show has music by Sean Mahoney, and book and lyrics by Patricia Noonan. Teal Wicks (Wicked, Finding Neverland) will play Jackie Cochran, the pilot who founded the WASPs and fought for their military status. Also performing the score will be Jenn Gambatese (Tarzan, School of Rock), Ally Bonino, Hannah Elless, Alexandra Ferrara, Jessica Fontana, Tamika Lawrence, Alyse Alan Louis, Jillian Louis, Eric William Morris, Christopher Nolan, Patricia Noonan, Allie Scherich, Nathan Scherich, and Pearl Sun under the direction of Gina Rattan and musical direction of Vadim Feichtner.
The writers told Playbill, “We knew we wanted to put a team of women on stage. Before we ‘met’ the WASPs, we’d actually set out to write an entirely different musical about the ‘Rosie the Riveters’ who built the Intrepid [aircraft carrier] in record time. We came across the Women Airforce Service Pilots on the fringes of our research—a sentence here, a picture there—and we could not get these little-known pioneering women out of our heads. Women who were among the first to test B-29s [bomber planes] but who had to pay for their uniforms, their room and board, and fight for years for military status even after 38 of them died in service without the benefit of Gold Stars [a banner that indicates a family member died in the service of their country]. The images of these proud women stepping out of the planes they'd ferried (often to the shock of the men on the bases they’d delivered the planes to) stayed with us. We knew their story of the joys, doubts, and sacrifices that come with being the ones to break the glass ceiling was the one we needed to tell.”
Asked how music is used to tell the story, the creators said, “The high stakes, the danger, the pull between tradition and new possibilities, and the sheer joy of flight made this story sing. The music mirrors the changing nature of a world at war and a group of women ahead of their time. The score is a blend of the 1940s sounds of the world surrounding the WASPs and more contemporary musical theater/pop sounds when they break the mold and take to the sky. These women also came to serve from all over the country, so we get to play with the sounds of country, blues, etc., that they would have brought with them.”
Long after the fact, the WASPs were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.
Sweetwater, named for the Texas town where the WASPs were headquartered and trained, was developed at Goodspeed Musicals’ Johnny Mercer Writers’ Colony in Connecticut in February 2017.
Tickets for Sweetwater cost $30-$65, plus a $25 foot/beverage minimum, and can be ordered by clicking here. Feinstein’s/54 Below is located at 254 West 54th Street below the Studio 54 theatre.