OPERATION DADDY: HERE COME THE WAR BRIDES
Scugog Choral Society
Produced and Directed by Liz Auston, Music Direction by Alissa Smith
November 17 – 26, 2016
In 1946, thousands of War Brides sailed to Canada to be re-united with the servicemen(Army, Navy and Air Force) who stole their hearts. Inspired by this important historical event in our country, and by her grandmother Sarah Cooper, who was a war bride, SCS President Liz Auston set out on a quest to complete an original musical based on the lives of these beautiful women whom she affectionately calls “My Girls”.
Ms. Auston spoke to more than two dozen women from the Durham, Scugog and GTA to learn of their stories of the war bride experience. The result of all this research and discussion is a World War Two era musical which focuses on the lives of three women with one thing in common: they have fallen for a Canadian serviceman and find themselves bound for Canada and for a husband whom many barely knew in order to begin life anew. Some of these stories turn out happy, some poignant, while some are truly sad.
What an appropriate and fitting time to stage this remount in honour of the 70th anniversary of Canada’s war brides. Here Come the War Brides is a lovely, sentimental, often poignant original work. To produce, to direct, to set design and to co-ordinate costumes at the same time is a task in itself, but Auston’s passion and zeal for this project is highly evident. Her incredibly hard working twenty-five cast and thirty plus crew members also wanted to do her proud while maintaining the truth and dignity of the story since there were a few war brides present in the audience on Friday, November 18.
The set of a 1940s bar makes full use of the Town Hall stage. At times, there is a traffic jam when the entire company of actors/singers enters and exits the stage when the full sound is needed for some of the musical numbers. This jam could also account for the lengthy three-hour production with intermission. Two or three songs from each act could or might be eliminated to help cut down on performance time.
It was obvious a great deal of thought and work had gone into researching the costume design, makeup and hair of the 1940s. The uniforms of the male ensemble servicemen appear highly realistic while the dresses of the female central characters and ensemble were colourful and bright. All areas of the stage were lit appropriately when necessary.
Music Director Alissa Smith, along with Ms. Auston, has inserted toe tapping swing music and victory anthems of the 1940s. I’m always a stickler for sound especially in a musical where it is important to hear the lyrics of each song. The three-piece band takes us back to the big band era with fond remembrance. For the most part, we can hear the singers but, as performances continue this week, I’m sure an equal balance will be struck so the band does not overpower the singers.
Kathy Knight, Susan Ellis and Diane Juzcow play the older Charlotte, Katherine and Maggie with very distinct and likeable personalities. Kyffen Gaudet plays the young Charlotte (known as Lottie) with sass and verve. She marries the serviceman Frank (solid performance by Dale Woitte). There are no children from this marriage. Jennifer Mance plays Kate, the young Katherine, with sweetness and vulnerability. Her husband is serviceman Eddy Jones (nicely played by Darren Klingenberg). They have a daughter, Annie.
There are a number of memorable moments worth mention. The conclusion of the first act with the entire company certainly begins to tug at the heartstrings. Some poignant musical numbers occur in the second act as the young Kate, Maggie and Lottie sing “Someone to Watch Over Me” while they are on board the ship sailing to Canada. There is a nice rendition by Melanie Brennan as Nurse Nightingale along with the female ensemble when they sing “A Nightingale Sang in Barkley Square”. For me, the most poignant moment occurs when Darren Klingenberg as Eddy sings “Daddy’s Little Girl” while he holds his baby daughter, Annie, in his arms for the first time. Whenever I hear this song, I am often reminded of the father – daughter dance at weddings that normally will bring a tear as the wedding guests witness a beautiful moment between father and daughter.
Bravo to all of the performers and crew who will continue to highlight this historical Canadian event at Port Perry’s Town Hall. At the conclusion of the performance, a vintage film reel showing us war brides on board the ships are an important reminder once again of this Canadian moment.
Operation Daddy: Here Come the War Brides continues at the Town Hall, 302 Queen Street in Port Perry November 24, 25 and 26 at 8 pm. There is a matinee on November 26 as well at 2 pm. Tickets may be purchased at the door before each performance. For further information, please visit www.townhall1873.ca or their website or call (905) 985-8181.