As the bitter winds blew down the concrete canyons of St Paul, I was transported back to 1944 where I attended a rehearsal for a USO show with entertainment provided by Minnesota’s own Andrews Sisters and their friends, Lou Costello & Bud Abbott, Danny Kaye & Bing Crosby. The show contained wonderful holiday songs, comedy routines and insight into the lives of GIs (thanks to their “letters from the front”).
OK, so I really didn’t leave 2005… But the winds were bitter.
Instead, I attended the Great American History Theatre’s production of “Christmas of Swing”.
I have to agree with the Theater Review that appeared in the Star Tribune after the production opened:
Review: Some corn, some schmaltz, but undeniably great music in this Andrews Sisters homage.
The show was chock full of musical numbers (26 recognizable songs from a period that defined America). The gals who portrayed the Andrew Sisters (Norah Long, Patty Nieman and Ruthie Baker) were superb, clearly embracing the spirit of the sisters, their voices blending beautifully (as the Strib review said, “like honey and butter”.)
The comedy skits were vintage schmaltz. As I watched the Abbott & Costello skit, I thought about the innocence of childhood – at least my childhood. As a kid, I LOVED Abbott & Costello, The Marx Brothers, Laurel & Hardy, The 3 Stooges and Jerry Lewis. Today, I find that my tolerance for their slap-stick comedy is sadly absent. My mood, already melancholy, grew slightly darker as I lamented on the loss of my childhood awe of the legends of comedy, my laughs more like strangled chuckles.
Two moments in the show filled my eyes with stinging tears – the first, as Maxene Andrews (Long), sang an a cappella rendering of “O Holy Night”. It was breath-taking, eerie and serene. I would hazard to guess that I was not the only person in attendance with tears brimming.
Later, barely recovered from “O Holy Night”, Laverne Andrews (Nieman) teamed with Terry Lynn Carlson as a solider in a sweet lament on “You’re All I Want for Christmas.”
It was hard not to imagine the loneliness of the soldiers on the front line and their loved ones back home. My thoughts flashed to our brave men and women currently participating in the battle of good vs. evil on distant lands, a lump forming in my throat, a tear streaming down my cheek.
Merry Christmas troops. Thank you for your sacrifice. Stay safe.