Sisters Of Swing Review

Sisters Of Swing Review

By Ed Huyck

Play review

“Sisters Of Swing”: dinner seating starts 6 p.m., curtain 8 p.m., June 20th through August 30th, 2003 (dark Mondays) at Door Off Broadway Dinner Theatre in Mr. G’s, two miles south of Jacksonport. $45.95 plus tax. (920) 823-2899.

In a career that spanned the Great Depression and the Great Society, the Andrews Sisters carved out their own unique niche in the world.

With elegant harmonies, catchy songs and bright public personas, the Minnesota trio ruled the pop world. The Andrews Sisters sold more than 90 million records, recorded 1,800 songs, and had more top 10 hits than the Beatles or Elvis Presley.

Their story comes to life in Sisters of Swing, now running at Door Off Broadway Dinner Theatre. The mixture of great music and engaging performances makes this the best show in the short history of the company.

The show follows the sisters — Maxene, Patty and LaVerne — from their earliest days, through their days of greatest success and finally to the sad separation that came at the end of their careers.

The show, created by Beth Gilleland, Bob Beverage and Ron Peluso at the Great American History Theatre in St. Paul, weaves the sisters story with the terrific music. For the most part, it succeeds.

The two pieces work well together, though the nature of the show doesn't allow for much character development. After all, the songs of the musical typically help to advance the plot and the characters.

Still, with more than 20 songs — many of which are now standards — Sisters of Swing has more than enough fantastic music to keep the evening moving. You get all the hits, from Bei Mir Bist Du Schon to Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree to Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. You also get some of their famous moments, such as recording Accentuate the Positive with Bing Crosby and performing All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth with Danny Kaye.

The behind-the-scenes story is important. We get a sense of how hard the sisters worked for their success, and how much they bucked the confines of their lives — from defying their overbearing father to insisting that the black big band that opened for them at a show for thousands of servicemen in World War II be seated in the front of the crowd.

The Door Off Broadway trio — Bonnie Allen as Maxene, Megan Kelly as Patty and Kaitlin Yilek as LaVerne — do more than just recreate the Andrews Sisters signature vocal sound. They create their own chemistry on stage, carving out niches not just in the vocals, but in their performances, that make each one a living, breathing character.

Joining them on stage are Nolan Dresden as Vic and David Saffert as Lou. That's only part of their roles, however. The two also split time at the piano and recreate a dizzying array of characters, from soldiers to radio announcers to Crosby and Kaye. The evening, directed and choreographed by Jim Zimmerman, moves along with great energy, never sagging under the weight of trying to tell the story and fit in the music of the Andrews Sisters.

The era of the Andrews Sisters was quite different than today: There was only radio and film when they started, while their career was defined by the hard, dark years of World War II. Yet the story and especially their music continues to resonate with audiences. Bravo to Door Off Broadway for bringing this show to the Peninsula.

©2003 Door County Advocate

New show pulls off Andrews Sisters' style, story

By Warren Gerds

Play review

“Sisters Of Swing”: dinner seating starts 6 p.m., curtain 8 p.m., June 20th through August 30th, 2003 (dark Mondays) at Door Off Broadway Dinner Theatre in Mr. G’s, two miles south of Jacksonport. $45.95 plus tax. (920) 823-2899.

JACKSONPORT -- Spirit and heart fuel "Sisters of Swing," a tune-filled remembrance of the hit-making Andrews Sisters.

Door Off Broadway Dinner Theatre's production would be even better if it had the money to pour into the backdrop and costumes. The amplification is spotty at times, too.

Mostly -- to use a word from the era -- the show is swell.

It's especially fascinating watching a young threesome burst around the stage as the sisters.

Everybody in the company has an ear for the Andrews Sisters style. That starts with director James A. Zimmerman, whose efforts brought the show to Northeastern Wisconsin.

This is only the second production in the country.

In song, most of "Sisters of Swing" flies on the Andrews' bounce through such songs as "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon," "Hold Tight," "Six Jerks in a Jeep," "Rum and Coca Cola" and "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree."

Creators Beth Gilleland, Bob Beverage and Ramond Berg also inspect the Andrews' lives off stage. There's a lot of sisterly picking and biting -- even meanness -- but you still leave the theater liking the Andrews Sisters.

Going full tilt are Kaitlin Yilek as LaVerne (the oldest), Bonni Allen as Maxene and Megan Kelly as Patty (the youngest).

Yilek is still in college, Allen has performed for 13 years and Kelly is a fresh graduate.

They have a fine harmonic blend. They also recreate the Andrews' stage zest well, as well as shape the individual characters.

Kelly is especially "up" to match Patty's incandescence. But the demand on her energy takes its toll on notes here and there.

She and the others can be compared with the real thing. In the lobby is a display of Andrews Sisters photos, sheet music and records. The movie "Buck Privates" runs on a TV, with the trio on stage reflecting well with what's on screen.

David Saffert and Nolan N. Dresden offer good support as multiple male (and comic female) characters.

Saffert is especially important in delving into a theme of anti-Semitism. Racial bias in the military also is brought up.

This show has more to it than being end-to-end tunes from the 1930s and '40s.

Aside from the big, big hits, two tunes deserve note. Fun explodes in "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth," with Saffert (as Danny Kaye) and the trio. "Near You" is brilliant as we hear the tenderness of the lyrics and see the counterpoint of the sisters' sharp feelings for each from close day-to-day life.

"Sisters of Swing" brings a new appreciation of what the Andrews Sisters meant to the nation and service personnel during World War II. When things were tough, they were there with rays of brightness through song and personality.

©2003 Green Bay Press Gazette

"Nothing is ever perfect, but you're close! What a pleasant surprise of good food, great show, and pleasant, courteous staff. We'll be back! Thank you!"

- Patron, Orland Park, IL

Dear Management:

My wife and I had the distinguished pleasure of attending your theatre and witnessing the fantastic production of "Sisters of Swing" on Saturday, August 23, 2003.

Your establishment is a true asset to Door County and Wisconsin and you certainly understand the true meaning of guest satisfaction, food preparation, and service!

I am a big fan of the Andrews Sisters, have dedicated my music/teaching room at our home to the Sisters (photos, sheet music, records, and memorabilia) and was delighted, to say the least, with your production. Megan, Bonni, Katilin, David, and Nolan did a truly awesome job portraying their characters, and should be commended for a knock-out production! Your behind-the-scenes crew deserves a round of applause as well, for as we know, without them, the show would not go on!

I am certain that Ms. Patty Andrews would be delighted in seeing this production and one could even feel the spirits of Maxene and LaVerne Andrews in the place during the show! A special thanks to your establishment, the members of the box office and the members of the cast for making ME feel like a celebrity that evening. Unbeknownst to me, we were seated at your VIP table, dead center of the stage, and throughout the course of the production I was pulled up stage to polka during "The Beer Barrel Polka," had to don a military cap and play a soldier at the USO watching the Andrews Sisters, and prior to the show, David even announced to the audience that I had met Maxene Andrews and corresponded with her for a number of years.

I am STILL AMAZED a the warm reception that we encountered, the excellent food and service, and the three girls' ability to harmonize perfectly, but also dance, shake and move across the stage while singing!

At "only" 35 years of age, I know I am an exception to the rule of what "should" I should be listening to, but have found the girls' music to be not only an inspiration to me, but to several of my pupils as well.

Thanks so much for an enchanting evening, and best wishes for a successful run of your Patsy Cline production. WE WILL RETURN in the future to your beautiful establishment and hospitable Door County Wisconsin.

Warmest Regards,
Bryan, Bellaire, MI

Door Off Broadway Dinner Theatre
5890 Hwy. 57, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235    Box Office: (920)823.2899
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