LEWISTON – For the annual spring production by the Bates College theater department, theater professor Paul Kuritz is directing a World War II-era musical “Swingtime Canteen.”

The performances will be 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, March 11 to 13, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 13 and 14. Performances will be in Schaeffer Theatre, 305 College St.

Written by Linda Thorsen Bond, William Repicci and Charles Busch, “Swingtime Canteen” is inspired by the films and personalities of the 1940s that reflected the state of mind behind the U.S. war effort against the Axis powers in World War II. It premiered in 1995 and had more than 300 performances off Broadway. The New York Times’ described it as “a pleasure.” It has been performed all over the United States, in Canada and in London.

This upbeat, interactive play follows movie legend Marian Ames and her friends from the Hollywood Canteen while they put together a musical act to entertain the troops in London in 1943. Music abounds as these archetypal film characters of the 1940s sing more than 30 vintage classics from those years, including: “Don’t Fence Me In,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “Sing, Sing Sing,” “How High the Moon,” “I Don’t Want to Walk Without You,” and a 12-song Andrews Sisters medley.

Audience members become the troops at a canteen show, and at least one viewer can expect to find himself on stage dancing along with the actors.

Kuritz chose the play for both its musical content and emphasis on female roles, which provides a contrast with the male-dominated production of “Hamlet” last fall.

Although the play has the potential to make war look rosy, Kuritz insists his production makes no such statement.

“The challenge, the great temptation, is to make a comment about the current war,” he says. Kuritz has tried to resist this temptation, choosing to let the audience decide for themselves by creating a performance that makes available “every possible point of view.”

The entertainment community’s response to World War II was markedly different from the current situation, he says, “And the question people can think about is, why?”

Victoria Stubbs of Poland, Maine, is guest musical director for the production, working here through the Mellon Learning Associates Program in the Humanities at Bates. Stubbs has worked with Mad Horse Theater and teaches at the Portland Art and Technology High School. She has been vital in helping students master the close harmonies of the Andrews Sisters medley, Kuritz says.

Admission is $6 for the public and $3 for Bates faculty and staff, senior citizens and non-Bates students. The performance is free to Bates students and WWII veterans.

For reservations or more information, call (207) 786-6161.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.