’USO Live’ at White Star a marvelous revue

By DONNA MCCROHAN ROSENTHAL

The opening night of “USO Live” at White Star on Friday, April 19, played to a packed and thoroughly delighted house. Director/writer/singer Kevin Anderson had set out to re-create the experience of a World War II USO radio show for U.S. personnel in the Pacific and has succeeded admirably on multiple levels. The combined talents of cast members and the 10-man Big Band X-Press provide two extremely enjoyable hours of comedy, music, choreography and big-band sound.

The evening begins with newsreel clips to set the mood and draw the audience back to the era when Bob Hope and troupe would entertain our armed forces men and women, often in a hazardous war zone. The live shows would then be broadcast to radios back home, accompanied by stirring reminders to buy war bonds.

Anderson et al achieve precisely the right mix of star power, bubbly fun and patriotism that characterized Hope’s revues, staging such favorites as “Puttin’ On The Ritz” and “Chattanooga Choo-Choo.” Kevin Anderson and Steven Farris spar in clever comedy routines, Roger Lacher astounds with an “Ain’t Misbehavin’” trombone solo, Krysten Coursey and Ben Bockhan charm with a flirty duet rendition of “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” Ryan Loewen delivers an achingly lovely solo and Patti Cosner displays flair and style with “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing.” What constitutes a highlight depends on personal taste; however, the first-act closer with Melanie Anderson leading the entire company in “Honeybun” from the Broadway hit “South Pacific” most likely qualifies as the full-throttle showstopper.

More serious, and effectively reinforcing the subtext that Americans should not need a war bond rally to prompt us to honor our armed forces, Kevin Anderson, John Cosner, Brian Cosner and Larry Cosner perform a rousing medley of military songs, and the evening closes with the wonderful “God Bless America.”

Period product commercials add to the overall USO radio broadcast feel, and a 50/50 raffle benefits both the Big Band X-Press scholarships and Sierra Sands Unified School District’s performing arts programs.

The Ridgecrest Music Enrichment Society will present “USO Live” again on Friday, April 26, and Saturday, April 27, at the White Star Theater, 2600 S. China Lake Blvd. The show starts at 7 p.m., and the doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available in advance at Red Rock Books and, if there are any left unsold, at the door. A show has been added for 6 p.m. Sunday, with tickets available at Red Rock Books.

Story First Published: 2013-04-24