From torch songs to toe-tappers, Until Everyone Comes Home took a near-capacity crowd at Chief Sepass Theatre on a trip back in time Saturday afternoon, with a selection of music and comedy from the Second World War.
The two-hour variety show, presented by the Langley Centennial Museum and Trinity Western University’s School of Arts, Media + Culture (SAMC), offered a tribute to the Canadian and American entertainers who provided troops all over the world with a bit of respite from the horrors of war.
Peter Tulumello, cultural services manager with the Township of Langley, was pleased both with Saturday’s turnout of more than 240 people and the fact that organizers were able to treat the crowd to an excellent show.
“We were quite thrilled,” he said of the community response.
“And then our entertainers really delivered, and our timing seemed to be right on.”
Several people suggested to Tulumello afterward that the show should become an annual event.
That would be a bit of a tall order, he said, adding that organizers have found putting on a show every 18 months or so, has been a fairly manageable timeline.
The museum previously mounted a Vaudeville show in February, 2013 to coincide with an exhibit. That subject was a natural fit for a theatrical presentation, he said.
With this show, he said, it was important to demonstrate that the war years were not all doom and gloom.
There were sacrifices being made at home, with rationing and women going to work in factories to keep materials flowing, both in North America and overseas, he said.
“Entertainment was part of that, too.
“This was an opportunity to show how we (Canada and Britain) would entertain troops. It was not all about the USO,” he said.
“It’s a good way to interpret history.”
Until Everyone Comes Home was emceed by musicologist Douglas Fraser, who offered insight into the time, and how the entertainment industry in both nations responded.
The show blended humour and optimism with the profound sense of longing expressed in song, as soldiers continued to march off to war, leaving sweethearts and families behind.
Singer Elizabeth MacPherson brought that depth of emotion to life in the hits of English songbird Vera Lynn, performing White Cliffs of Dover, Lili Marlene and We’ll Meet Again.
Langley Fine Arts School graduate Eva Tavares performed a trio songs by Canadian singer-actress Deanna Durbin before returning to the stage as one of Lady Larks, singing the hits of the famous Andrews Sisters.
Alex McCune also pulled double duty, singing hits written by Canadian Ruth Lowe and made famous by Frank Sinatra as well as standing in for Bing Crosby for such favourites as I’ll Be Seeing You and I’ll be Home for Christmas.
Things took a sultry turn as Langley Has Talent winner Hayley Bouey belted out a trio of torch songs, from I’m in the Mood for Love to Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You and, arguably, one of the era’s most soulful tunes, At Last.
Ahnika Barber sang songs made famous by Judy Garland while Charlotte Elgersma took the audience on a Sentimental Journey with tunes from Glenn Miller’s Big Bands songbook.
Each performance was accompanied by projected images of the original artists who made the songs famous.
Aside from the Lady Larks, all the vocalists were accompanied by the TWU Jazz Quintet.
Comedy duo Thomas Gage and Chris Nash presented a skit from Wayne and Shuster’s Army Show before redefining basic mathematics with Abbott & Costello’s routine, Arithmatickle.
Tulumello offered special thanks to Allan Thorpe, chair of TWU’s music department and the show’s music director, talent scout Sandy Dunkley and SAMC chair Angela Konrad for helping to make the show a success. An exhibit of Second World War memorabilia is on display at the Fort Langley museum, 9135 King St., until Tuesday, Nov. 11.