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Stage Door Canteen takes wraps off 'Andrew Brothers'

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The Andrews Brothers

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The National World War II Museum's entertainment staff has been busy with several original productions for the past several years including the critically acclaimed "Jump, Jive and Wail" - a tribute to the late Louis Prima - and several projects with the Victory Belles such as the recent "Spirit of America" show.

The most recent show to grace the boards of the Stage Door Canteen is "The Andrews Brothers," an unlikely tale set in the South Pacific during the waning days of World War II and directed by Victoria Reed. Playing starlet Peggy Jones is veteran Victory Belle and one of the stars of "My Way: A Tribute to Frank Sinatra," Courtney Boe. Boe oozes talent from every one of her attractive pores as she sings, dances and performs several solo numbers and in perfect harmony with her fellow cast members.

Those other cast members are a trio of misfit stagehand brothers named Max (Brian Falgoust), Lawrence (Rich Arnold) and Patrick (Clint Johnson), all rejected from service, respectively, due to flat feet, poor vision and asthma. What the brothers can do very well, however, is emulate the famous sister act who also bears their same surnames.

They have seen them perform so many times they can mimic the three-part harmonies of Patty, Maxene and LaVerne Andrews with absolute ease. Hoping to contribute to the morale of the armed forces in need of entertaining as well as to get a break in show business, the trio are forced to assume the identities of the real Andrews Sisters when they are sidelined by illness.

Along the way Boe's character of Peggy Jones takes a fancy to brother Patrick and a romance begins to flame, despite Johnson's character's reluctance to take center stage with the girl of his dreams and carry off a seemingly impossible ruse with his brothers.

While the plotline by Roger Bean ("The Marvelous Wonderettes") is fairly insipid, it is, after all, a vehicle to showcase the music of the era and, in particular, the songs made popular by the most famous trio of the World War II era. It is Bean and and Jon Newton, who have scored the arrangements of the Andrews Sisters' famous works for male voice, and it comes off magnificently.

Songs like Kay Kyser's "Rosie the Riveter" and Glenn Miller's "Peggy, the Pinup Girl" follow the opener of "The Hut-Sut Song" originally recorded by Horace Heidt and His Musical Knights. Yet, it is when the quartet performs together as with the novelty song "I'm Breathless' or the nonsense song "Mairzy Doats" that the most exquisite moments of "The Andrews Brothers" are seen and heard.

The choreography by Ford Haeuser in numbers like "The Hawaiian War Chant," "Beat Me Daddy Eight to the Bar" and "Accentuate the Positive" allow all the cast members to shine as the first of the two acts concludes.

When the second act begins, the plan to replace the missing Andrews Sisters with the disguised Andrews Brothers is afoot. Arnold plays Laverne, Falgoust takes on Maxine, while Johnson portrays Patti. Boe continues her role of Peggy Jones, the starlet who introduces the numbers and occasionally executes a stage direction such as pulling a curtain. The tap dancing by the disguised brothers is outstanding and thrilling.

All the top songs from the trio are sung including "Hold Tight (Want Some Seafood, Mama)" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy." Eventually, the Andrews Brothers are revealed and they conclude with the three song successes of "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon," Rum and Coca Cola" and "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree."

While a trio of female impersonators might be a launching point for hilarity and ridicule, the thing that distinguishes "The Andrews Brothers" is that the troupe manages to keep a delicate balance playing the role of cross-dressing men and beautiful singers, no matter the gender. A less than talented director than Reed might have gone strictly for the cheap laughs and given the songs short shrift. But Reed knows the songs are what makes the show so special. Bean and Newton's homage to the songs of this era with truly great arrangements, the fabulous tap dance sequences by assistant director Haeuser and the incredible vocal agility expressed by all four performers make this one of the finest shows presented by Reed's staff to date.

"The Andrews Brothers" continues at the Stage Door Canteen stage of the National World War II Museum on Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 p.m. through June 7. Tickets for the show only are $30.00 each. Sunday matinees are every Sunday at 1:00 p.m. through June 8. Tickets for matinee shows include a brunch from Chef John Besh's American Sector Restaurant and are $60.00 for adults, $50.00 for children under 12. Dinner can be purchased for the evening performances for an additional $35.00, or $65.00 total for adults, $57.00 for children under 12. There will be two seatings on Mother's Day, May 11. To order tickets, click here or call 504-528-1943.

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