Sisters of Swing: The Story of the Andrews Sisters
Written by Beth Gilleland and Bob Beverage
Based on an idea by Ron Peluso
Musical Arrangement by Raymond Berg
Directed by Roy Alan
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL
It’s tough to come up with a more iconic musical act for the WW2 era than the Andrews Sisters. Three girls harmonizing with air raid proof hair styles and tight matching uniforms, they sang the innocent to mildly suggestive music that typified the era. While they had an amazing and profitable career stateside they spent much of the war on USO tours cheering the troops and selling bonds. We follow their musical career from Minnesota to the big time, their path driven by solid vocals hard work and a jealous but supportive from their Greek and Norwegian parents. Like all over night sensations, they spent years touring the vaudeville circuit, eventually working up to the Orpheum circuit where they were “discovered” and had a hit with a swinger version of a Yiddish chestnut “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon”. The rest, as they say, is musical theater.
Nearly every number is a trio with Patty (Heather Kopp) Maxine (Laura Hodos) and Laverne (Heather Alexander) and it hard to pick out any one song as greater or lesser than another. The big hits are all here from “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree” to “All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth” to the almost sexy “Rum and Coca Cola.” There’s a swirl of supporting characters surrounding the sisters, hardworking Josh Eleazer supported the girls with lightning fast costume changes and acted as Lou their manager (and Maxine’s husband,) Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and the draggy polka queen from the “Beer Barrel Polka”. Normally reserved Chris Leavy jumped in as arranger Vic Schon and even multi-instrumentalist Ned Wilkinson got a few lines.
It’s a lovely show, focused on the music but showing enough of the internal dynamics and struggles of the group so they appear human. Ms. Alexander has a strong resemblance to Lucille Ball in her reddish wig, and both Hodos and Kopp create strong personalities that make this a story about family rather than a static revival of the hits. Its old time music, but the Andrews Sisters are part of that American song book from an era where the blues were coming in to the main stream and while they were never rock and roll, it was a logical extension of their fast pace and bouncy tunes. No mater your musical preferences, it’s hard to imagine anyone not loving this well-constructed dramatic review.
For more information on Winter Park Playhouse, please visit http://www.winterparkplayhouse.org