Both inspiring, depressing
SouthtownStar (Chicago, IL)
October 7, 2011
“War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!”
Edwin Starr had it slightly wrong when he sang that protest song in 1970.
War can be good for heartwarming and heart-wrenching stories.
The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire’s latest musical production of “For the Boys” has it both ways.
This salute to wartime entertainers is both inspiring and depressing.
It reminds us of the so-called “good war,” which was World War II, and then the ones that followed it and were divisive. Although based on the 1991 film starring Bette Midler and James Caan, “For the Boys” is a world-premiere stage musical.
Marriott, with its 40,000 season-ticket base, can afford the talents of co-artistic director Aaron Thielen, director-choreographer Marc Robin and others to supplement its commercially safe works (such as “Guys and Dolls” and “42nd Street”).
“For the Boys” covers the story of Dixie Leonard and Eddie Sparks, opening in 1942 when they started entertaining America’s troops in Europe.
Though the characters are fictional, they are backdropped by the real period events – World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.
The songs – many of them well-known chart toppers from the 1940s through the 1970s – reflect the periods well.
As sung terrifically mostly by Michele Ragusa as Dixie and Timothy Gulan as Eddie, the tunes include “You Are My Sunshine,” “I Remember You,” “I Wish You Love,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Rag Mop,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “What a Wonderful World.”
Ragusa, fresh off Broadway, and Gulan, a musical theater tour veteran, are making their Marriott debuts.
The rest of the 19-member cast acts as an ensemble, even though many of them have often been leads in previous Marriott shows.
They include Bernie Yvon, Rod Thomas, Johanna McKenzie Miller, Anne Gunn and Michael Weber.
The first act mostly sticks to the Word War II era when the songs and comedy were purposely uplifting.
But the second act becomes decidedly darker as the themes include infidelity, the Red Scare, blacklisting and ultimately wasted lives.
The first act keeps with Marriott’s tradition of entertaining musicals.
The second act seems to belong on a dramatic stage. The usual high-energy Robin choreography is missing throughout.
The production values, including the orchestration and the virtual 360-degree video screens that help with context, are typically superb.
But overall, “For the Boys” deserves an A for effort and execution but a C for content.
Don Snider is a local free-lance writer.
“For the Boys” features Zachary Keller (left) as Danny and Timothy Gulan as Eddie Sparks. | Peter Coombs/Marriott Theatre photo Peter Coombs
Fact Box: ”˜FOR THE BOYS’ â™¦ Through Oct. 16 Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 4:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 5 p.m. Sundays, and 1 and 8 p.m. Wednesdays. â™¦ Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, 10 Marriott Drive â™¦ Tickets, $41 to $49 Seniors and students receive $5 off full-price theater tickets for shows at 4:30 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 5 p.m. Sundays and 1 p.m. Wednesdays. A limited number of dinner-and-theater tickets are available for $55 per person on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Dinner is at King’s Wharf Restaurant or the Fairfield Inn (based on dining availability). â™¦ (847) 634-0200; MarriottTheatre.com GO ONLINE Click on the Theater link in SouthtownStar.com’s Entertainment section to a see a gallery of photos from “For the Boys.”