War Brides, a romantic musical about British women who fight to be reunited with the U.S. soldiers they met during World War II, gets a non-Equity regional run at the Spirit of Broadway Theatre in Norwich, CT, June 13-23.
The revised version of an earlier musical had readings in 2001 in New York City in anticipation of the Norwich run. War Brides has a book by Ron Sproat, music by Christopher Berg and lyrics by Frank Evans. The work was seen in a full production (under the title Back Home) in 1994 at the New Hope Performing Arts Festival in Bucks County, PA, and has had readings at Paper Mill Playhouse and National Musical Theatre Network.
Brett A. Bernardini directs and choreographs in Connecticut. Mark Janas is musical director.
The cast includes Claire Mailhot, Shauna Beth Mandelberg, Patrick Cohen, Shawn Rucker, Erin Lee Sousa, Maureen Pollard, Bret Haines and Brad Overturf.
* Composer Christopher Berg recently completed an opera based on Shakespeare's Cymbeline, and is currently composing a set of songs and vocal ensembles, commissioned by the Mirror Visions Ensemble, for performances in Paris in March 2002. Among the performers who have recorded his work is Elaine Stritch. His most frequently performed song, a setting of Frank O'Hara's "Poem," begins with the immortal line: "Lana Turner has collapsed!"
Lyricist Frank Evans co-wrote lyrics to the musical, Abie's Island Rose, seen Off-Broadway and in Florida, and he penned lyrics for the musical, Dinner at Eight, based on the classic American play and movie. Librettist Ron Sproat's many credits include being head writer for TV's "Dark Shadows." He also wrote the libretto for the original musical, Abie's Island Rose.
Song titles in War Brides include "Back Home" "Thrill of a Romance," "Chimneys and Steeples," "When I See Him" and "A Good Time Now and Then."
When it was reviewed by The Philadelphia Inquirer and other papers, the Bucks County production was hailed as having a score that marries the swing sounds of the 1940s to the sophistication of the modern, post Sondheim musical (with a hint of English music hall).
According to Spirit of Broadway production notes: "During World War II, over 70,000 British women met and married American servicemen stationed in Great Britain. After the war, husbands and wives were separated when the husbands were shipped home. The separations, in most cases, lasted more than a year, due to governmental indifference to the plight of the War Brides on both sides of the Atlantic. At last, the brides banded together and marched on the Ministry of War Transport in London, and, as a result of the publicity the march received, Congress passed the War Brides Act, providing transport for the brides to America. However, before they were allowed to sail, the brides were herded together in processing centers in England, run by the United States Army, and were forced to undergo arduous verbal and physical examinations to determine their fitness to enter this country."
The 83-seat not-for-profit Spirit of Broadway Theatre is at 24 Chestnut Street in Norwich, CT. For ticket information, call (860) 886-2378.
— By Kenneth Jones