From PAM JOHNSON
This year, the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre’s very popular “1940s USO Show” has moved from July to December giving patrons a new way to experience this nostalgic, energetic, patriotic favorite. Performing familiar (and not-so-familiar) Christmas songs and original skits, the talented cast of the JRT will sing, dance and act its way into your heart.
The “1940s USO Show,” created by JRT’s artistic director Jennifer Ross, is in its 14th year. “The number one reason for doing the USO is to show support to our country and our veterans,” Ross said. “You can never show enough appreciation for what they’ve done for us and what they’re still doing for us.”
JRT’s USO show began back in 2004 with an idea to produce a patriotic musical for Jonesborough Days. Ross agreed to take on the project, and over the years it has become one of the community’s favorite productions. Typically, it runs during the 4th of July weekend, but this year, the theatre decided to honor the many requests for the return of a USO Christmas production.
“We felt like it was a very appropriate time of the year while thinking about being thankful for so many things, including our country and military,” Ross said. “And a lot of our Christmas songs were written during WWII to help cheer up the troops.”
Josh Baldwin, one of JRT’s USO show’s original members, pondered what he thought it would have been like to hear the Christmas radio programs while being stationed overseas during WWII. “I think from the standpoint of being a soldier, it was already hard enough being away from home, and to be away at the holidays was even harder. But to be able to hear familiar voices and familiar songs to remind you of home, it made you feel good. Because you knew there were people back at home wondering how you were; and that they cared; and that they wanted nothing but the best for you.”
All the show’s songs and skits are a special experience, as they have been for 14 years, but the highlight of each show is the Military Medley when members of the military are recognized. “The Military Medley at the end of the show is such a beautiful sight,” said choreographer Heather Allen, “and it’s worth all the hours and the blood and the sweat and the tears to see the men and women stand up who are our veterans and military personnel. Even on stage, we find ourselves breaking and crying.”
This show is not only popular with patrons, but also with the cast. Many have been in numerous USO shows, and this is what several of them have to say about such a special production:
“Our cast has a heart full of gratitude for our veterans and active service men and women.” (Brittany Whitson)
“The holidays are a time to focus on what we are thankful for. Thank you, veterans!” (Janette Gaines)
“This show celebrates the Christmas spirit of charity and peace while honoring the sacrifice of our armed forces.” (Joseph Gumina) “The USO Show allows the audience to know what life was like in the 1940s.” (Jessica Shelton)
“This show is the ‘Great American Song Book’ wrapped in feel-good fun and poignant patriotism.” (Sharon Squibb)
This season, JRT promises a show that is a fun, joyful, sentimental reminder of all our thanksgivings.
“When you’re counting your blessings, put our freedom at the top of your list,” Ross said. “We need to get beyond the negativity consuming our country and count our blessings. We have so many things to be thankful for. Think about that”
The “1940s USO Christmas Show” is written and directed by Jennifer Ross. Assistant director is Alexis Turner; choreographer is Heather Allen; and the band director is Lucas Schmidt. The performance is sponsored by Denny Dentistry, Morningstar Farm, and Sonia King and Mary B. Martin.
Rounding out the cast are Lorrie Anderson, Austin Bird, Ramona Bird, Dan Cross, Jaclyn DiDonato, Jen Fields, Shawn Hale, Aryn King, Hannah Love, Ashley Light, Paul McQuaid, Jessie Scarbrough, Catherine Squibb, Don Squibb, Connie Taylor, Corey Tickles, Alex Vanburen, Christopher Ward, and Lucas Wilcox. Shows are Dec. 7-11 and 14-17. Tickets are $16 general admission, $14 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010 or go online to www.jonesboroughtheatre.com.