Wartime in the Slow Lane
Canteen heavy on nostalgia, light on the swing
“I prefer the slow pace of an earlier age.”
That’s a line from Marian Ames, the leader of a five-woman USO show, about halfway through Swingtime Canteen, but she could have been speaking for the whole production — a slow-paced, sleepy look back at World War II-era shows, with lots of war-time standards, but little of the swing-style pizzazz that got “the boys” standing at attention in the ’40s.
Swingtime makes a few furtive glances at the fast lane, most notably during an Andrews Sisters medley and “Sing Sing Sing,” but these moments are fleeting, making it hard not to mope through the soft and sultry numbers that fill the rest of the show.
With a minimal, thrift-mart set — due to the Playhouse’s Urinetown that often goes on just two hours after the curtain falls on Swingtime — the transformation of the small 21st century playhouse into a 1940s canteen is left largely to the show’s five actresses, who pull it off with solid performances throughout. Kathy Summer and Page Adgani provide memorable comedic performances as washed-out actress Ames and gruff and tough Topeka Abercrombie, respectively.
While the slow pace is a burden through most of the show, a string of ballads to soldiers on the frontline stands out, considering these ladies could just as easily be singing to the troops in Iraq.
Swingtime lives up to the promise of a nostalgic look back — the crowd at the premiere matinee was packed and largely seniors who can remember the era — but there needs to be a little more boogie woogie from the bugle boy to get younger audiences to enlist.
Swingtime Canteen • Piccolo Spoleto’s Theatre Series • $22, $20 seniors/students • May 27, June 2, 3 at 3 p.m.; May 28, June 6 at 7 p.m. • Village Playhouse, 730 Coleman Blvd. • 554-6060