You don’t have to be a WWII veteran to know that The Andrews Sisters were the hottest close-harmony singing sensation of their era. The sisters also performed as part of international USO tours to entertain at Army, Navy, Marine and Coast Guard bases, war zones, hospitals, and munitions factories. And they encouraged U.S. citizens to purchase war bonds with their rendition of Irving Berlin's song “Any Bonds Today?”
That’s the background for Meadow Brook Theatre’s latest musical revue, a Michigan premiere written and created by Roger Bean and featuring the Andrews Sisters' music catalog as performed by “The Andrews Brothers.”
The plot is sweet and simple. Three brothers eager to serve their country at the outbreak of WWII find that they are all ineligible for service and classified 4F. Undaunted, they volunteer for the USO and serve as stagehands. The three brothers – Max, Patrick and Lawrence Andrews – are stationed at a base in the South Pacific where they eagerly await the arrival of the legendary Andrews Sisters and a new opening act, the lovely pin-up girl and song bird, Peggy Jones.
The brothers are pretty decent singers – who know all the Andrews Sisters' material by heart – and they are just looking for their big break. They successfully scheme to perform as the backup singers for Peggy Jones, and even rehearse several numbers that allow her to help each brother polish his stage presence. But just when everything seems ready for the big show, a telegram arrives announcing that The Andrews Sisters have been exposed to chicken pox and are in quarantine. The show will have to be cancelled, the troops will ship out without a final inspiring song, and everyone’s hopes are dashed.
But darn it all – this is a ‘40s MUSICAL! Peggy is determined that the show must go on, and Act Two finds the Andrews Brothers in drag and performing those great ‘40s favorites for the boys. Songs include “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “Slow Boat to China,” “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” and “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree.”
“Last year we produced ‘Life Could Be a Dream,’ which was also created by Roger Bean,” said Travis Walter, MBT artistic director. “Our audiences loved it! When I saw Mr. Bean had created a musical with 25 songs made famous by the Andrews Sisters, I knew we had to do it.”
In fact, MBT fans who enjoyed “Life Could Be a Dream” will be delighted at the return of two of its cast members, Joe Lehman and Lucas Wells, who appear as Max and Patrick Andrews respectively. Also appearing are Ben Garrett as Lawrence Andrews and Allison Hunt as Peggy Jones. Ms. Hunt was featured in the ‘60s musical revue “Shout: The Mod Musical” in 2011, and she shines in this show as a triple threat who acts, sings and dances up a storm. Combined, this cast proves a formidable foursome – a perfect evening of easy laughs, clever choreography, delightful costumes, a terrific live band, and those tight, tight harmonies.
“The Andrews Brothers” is directed by Travis W. Walter, with authentic musical direction by Daniel Feyer and choreography by Tyrick Wiltez Jones. Terry Carpenter is the stage manager, with set design by Jennifer Price Fick, costumes by Corey Globke, lighting by Reid G. Johnson and sound by Mike Duncan.
“The Andrews Brothers” plays at Meadow Brook Theatre on the campus of Oakland University through May 18. Performances run Wednesday through Saturday and show times vary, so it’s best to check the MBT calendar. Tickets range from $25 to $40 and are available by calling the Meadow Brook Theatre box office at 248-377-3300 or going online. Student discounts are available at the box office. Groups of eight or more should call 248-370-3316 for group pricing.