Triple threats, plus one

Swingtime Canteen features performers who sing, dance, act and play an instrument.

Published April 13, 2007

The toughest part of staging Swingtime Canteen, the nostalgic musical opening April 20 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre, was finding actors who could sing, dance, act - and play a musical instrument.

"We could find singer/dancers; we could find singer/actors; we could find singer, dancer or actor/musicians," said Show Palace artistic director Matthew McGee, who is also directing the show.

"We just couldn't find singer/dancer/actors who could play musical instruments."

But that's what the script calls for - on-stage singer/dancer/actors playing live music - and McGee and crew kept searching for them, right up until a couple of days before rehearsals started.

"We finally found the last one when someone else in the cast said she knew of someone," McGee said.

The result is six women whose resumes indicate they are not just triple threats (the theater term for singer-dancer-actor) but quadruple threats (a triple threat who plays an instrument).

Swingtime Canteen, as the name indicates, takes place in the heyday of swing music, the 1940s, and recalls a favorite gathering place of World War II soldiers, the canteen.

Hollywood glamor girl Marian Ames (Susan Haldeman, Vera in Mame, Domina in Funny/Forum), has been dropped by her studio after her last four movies flopped.

This is the can-do era, so she recruits gal pals Lilly McBain (LoriAnn Freda, Viva Vegas), who plays clarinet; drummer Jo Sterling (Trudi Posey, who has played Jo at three other regional theaters); pianist Topeka Abotelli (Rachel Brinker); her niece Katie Gammersflugel (Amanda Carlisle); three more instrumentalists and four high-kicking dancers and takes off for London to entertain the troops.

Despite air raids and other scares, the dozen performers sing, dance and play their hearts out, as the war rages around them.

Their tunes reflect the times when everyone pulled together and everyone knew who was friend and who was foe.

There are hokey songs like Don't Fence Me In and Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive, wistful songs like I'll Be Seeing You and Sentimental Journey, catchy tunes like His Rocking Horse Ran Away, and patriotic anthems like Thank Your Lucky Stars and Stripes.

A highlight is a medley of Andrews Sisters songs by Marian, Katie and Lilly that includes Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy; Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar; Rum and Coca-Cola; Beer Barrel Polka; and Three Little Fishes.

Choregrapher is Katie Kerwin, set and light designer is Tom Hansen, Todd M. Eskin is company manager, Gary Wyatt is music director and Jeremy Fenn-Smith is band leader.

If you go

WWII-era showWhat: Swingtime Canteen, a musical.Where: Show Palace Dinner Theatre, 16128 U.S. 19, Hudson.When: April 20 through May 27. Shows are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays (doors open two hours before each show for cash bar and included buffet dinner); and 1:15 p.m. some Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays (doors open at 11:30 a.m. for bar and buffet).Tickets: Dinner and show, $42.50; show only, $31.45; ages 12 and younger, $24.95 and $19.95, all plus tax and tip. Call (727) 863-7949 in west Pasco; toll-free elsewhere at 1-888-655-7469.