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Fun Swing-era pop fills Broadhollow’s ‘Canteen’

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The band is made up of five feisty women: Marian Ames, Lilly McBain, Jo Sterling, Topeka Abotelli and Marian's young niece, Katie Gammersflugel. They're backed by what looks like an all-female band led by a woman named, if the reviewer heard correctly, Georgina Spelvin, whose name sounds suspiciously like that of a porn star who was prominent in the '70s. But no matter. Together they put on a cracking good show, highlighting about 30 songs from the era, including "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," "Sentimental Journey," "I'll Be Seeing You" and a hilarious version of "Don't Fence Me In," complete with tumbleweed and coyote howls. At one point the Andrews Sisters are supposed to show up, but then it's learned that the girls are stuck in Malta under a 48-hour quarantine. Undaunted - and undauntedness is the ultimate American virtue in this play - Marian and her pals don their little soldier's caps and launch into an energetic Andrews Sisters medley, including "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Rum and Coca-Cola," "Hold Tight, Hold Tight" and "Beer Barrel Polka.""No wonder the Andrews Sisters always look so flushed!" Marian sighs when the act is over.The performances by the five women are wonderful. Jennifer Hope, fresh from a splendorous performance as Guenevere in Broadhollow's production of "Camelot," plays the aging and somewhat self-absorbed film star Marian (she's the "best and oldest" friend of everyone from Joan Crawford to Cole Porter) with great comic timing and prickly warmth. Her singing voice is magnificent, no more so than during her rendition of "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square." Lisa Franzen-Greene shines as Topeka, the one wife and mother among the girls who's in London to do her bit for the war effort, and Virginia A. Pourakis is wonderful as the tough girl, Jo. Anna R. Capocefalo plays Lilly as a vain and materialistic vamp until the second act, when she realizes there's more to life than diamonds and furs, though you wouldn't know it from her slinky rendition of "Daddy." Stephanie Mallick is sweet as Marian's weepy, hayseed niece, who has a secret. Gary Eisele, Jaimie Landes, Samantha Komaroff, Holly Beth Williams and Jack Goode are great as the girls' back-up band.The production, as most productions at the Broadhollow, is directed by Laura Rhodes Wallace, whose energy is boundless. The reviewer has come to believe that this very talented director must be the sort who's perfectly comfortable with having one show in production and the next show in pre-production, as she manages to put on a full-length play, some of which are fairly complex musicals, every month. This time she's helped by Brian Howard, whose set is dressed mostly in patriotic, sparkly reds, and Joshua Scherr, who has returned as the lighting designer. Sheri Kfare also returns as the costume designer, and dresses the girls in luscious gowns of red, white and blue. Also excellent are Eisele's musical direction and Pourakis and Erika Lingley-Wright's choreography, which really gets to shine in the "Don't Fence Me In" and "Thank Your Lucky Stars and Stripes" numbers. "Swingtime Canteen"'s book is by Linda Thorsen Bond, William Repicci and Charles Busch (was the Georgina Spelvin reference Mr. Busch's contribution?). The great songs, of course, are by various composers. By the way, if you sit close to the front you might be treated to donuts from Entenmann's."Swingtime Canteen" is great fun, a delightfully corny work that harkens back to a more innocent time. It'll be at the Broadhollow through Jan. 27.If You GoSwingtime CanteenDate: Through Jan. 27Time: 8 p.m. Friday & Saturday, 2:30 p.m. SundayLocation: Broadhollow Theatre, 700 Hempstead Turnpike, ElmontCost: Adult $28, senior $25, student $18, youth $14.00 For More: www.broadhollow.org

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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