Review, Compliment: War Bonds, Stoneleaf Festival, Asheville, NC

Asheville Citizen-Times

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zum Brunnen has collected and reads actual  historical documents from the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.

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