By Sandi Durell
Taking a step back in time to World War II, you’ll find the Waterwell Theater Company – part of the Under the Radar Festival of the Public Theater – offering up a roadmap of how comedy skits and musicals were designed to keep up the morale of our fighting forces. In 1944-45, these blueprint specials (conceived by Special Services Division, Army Service Forces) were a formula of scripts, scenic and costume designs, musical scores and detailed instructions as to how soldiers (male and female) could put on a show!
And they put on many shows with the help of some of our great songwriters, like Frank Loesser and Jerry Livingston & Hy Zaret, Ruby Jane Douglass, Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. Most of the songs presented were by Frank Loesser (Guys and Dolls), with book by Arnold M. Auerbach and original choreography by Jose Limon, as directed by Tom Ridgely.
Backed by a terrific band, led by Sonny Paladino, it appropriately unfolds in Hanger # 3 at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum; the devised plot involving the goddess Pallas Athena (wonderfully played by the golden voiced Laura Osnes) who decides she’s had enough of Mt. Olympus and god Jupiter (tongue in cheek funny – would have liked to have seen more of, Will Swenson), and comes down to earth to join the WACS as Mary Brown. She finds herself falling for the nebbish Sad Sack (a can do anything, outstanding Quinn Mattfeld).
It’s 95 minutes of non-stop tunes, sketches and comedy skits, some that land well, others that definitely feel 70 years old with a talented cast of singers, dancers (some current members of the Limon Dance Company – choreography by Colin Connor) and other dance numbers that are choreographed by Patrick McCollum.
Some memorable numbers include “The Saga of the (Sad) Sack “ (Livingston/Zaret), Loesser’s “Classification Blues,” “Report from the Caribbean” (North/Hill), “Why Do They Call a Private a Private” (Loesser/Hayes), and a stand up and salute “America (is the Place for Me)” (Martin/Blane).
Blueprint Specials is a wonderful piece of American history that many would find exciting and especially heart warming to see given that the ensemble is made up of a compendium of some retired and active military who morph seamlessly into a body of professionals.
Photos: Ryan Jensen