Review, Compliment: War Bonds, Stoneleaf Festival, Asheville, NC
"WAR BONDS" BY EBZB PRODUCTIONS
AT NC STAGE COMPANY
by Jim Cavener, Correspondent
Chapel Hill's EBZB Productions' original work, "War Bonds," is a charming, nostalgia-ridden period musical revue, with the period being World War Two, the early 1940s in the good ole' USA. There is patriotism and nationalism galore, but never maudlin, nor gross. The script's emphasis on basic humanity and the horror of it all over-rules our national penchant for glorifying war.
Serena Ebhardt and David zum Brunnen are the quality couple who create such works as last year's Stoneleaf one-man-show submission, "Via Dolorosa" -- one of the highlights of that season. This new production is more easy-going, with lots of memory-jogs from the likes of Bing Crosby, Frances Langford, Johnny Mercer, Irving Berlin, Glenn Miller, Bob Hope, and the Andrew Sisters. If those names ring your bell this is a show you'd love.
Ebhardt is a diminutive dynamo, mother of a four-year old, possessor of a clear, bright and compelling soprano and the most riveting eyes on the recent stage. Her eye contact with the audience is lovely to look at and helps hold attention to the splendid stage-craft being displayed by both actors in this often-poignant pageant of music and words. This duo knows the twists and turns. The selection of writings and the connecting narrative are a wonder to see and hear.
zum Brunnen has collected and reads actual historical documents from the
era, ranging from the words of Franklin Roosevelt to zum Brunnen's late father, Chester, a WWII veteran. The personal letters -- many from the archive of Rutgers University's oral history collection -- are the glue that hold together more than a score of familiar tunes. Anyone over 60 will know the majority of these, ranging from "Sentimental Journey," "White Cliffs of Dover" and "One Meatball" to "I'll Get By." They open and close the show with "Love Letters Straight from the Heart" by Heyman and Young. One of the most memorable tunes is "I'll be Seeing You" by Sammy Fain.
Wardrobe selections are so dated and timely, down to Ebhardt's dark stocking seam on the back of her legs. Even accompanists Julie Florin and Diane Petteway wear period suits and hats, adding accuracy to the trip down memory lane. Ebhardt makes frequent forays into the audience to sit on laps and tease the troops. A good time is had by all.