"For The Boys" (Marriott Theatre): War is Hell... of-a Good Time with the Right Show!

"For The Boys" (Marriott Theatre):  War is Hell... of-a Good Time with the Right Show!

When my dad was in the Vietnam War, my sister Cindy wore the same dress every day.  Until dad came home, she clothed herself in solidarity.  My mom tried to coax her into new outfits.  The little patriot stubbornly resisted. Relenting, my mom washed that dress every night. At only two-years old, Cindy was expressing her support of the troops. Marriott Theatre presents the world premiere of FOR THE BOYS, a new musical based on the Academy Award nominated 1991 film.  Eddie Sparks is a song and dance man.  Dixie Leonard is a nightclub singer.  When WWII brings them together, they begin a routine that survives war… three of them.  Sparks and Leonard are a dynamic act.   From the front lines to the home front, they entertain.  The duo has a tight and tumultuous bond on and offstage.  When peace times are threatened by volatile acts,  the imagined enemy isn’t always wearing a uniform.  FOR THE BOYS is a cabaret-style retrospect that asks ‘what are we fighting for?’  

I loved the Bette Midler and James Caan movie. Although Playwright Aaron Thielen does an admirable job adapting it to stage, a lot of the angst doesn’t make it onto the boards.  The underlying anger – Dixie/Eddie, Dixie/son, soldiers/world – is missing.  The film captures a major evolution in philosophy toward war.  WWII embracing to Vietnam disdaining.  Attitudes shifted. War devastated. Hate permeated…especially on the same side.  Despite some fatalities, Thielen’s script stays lighter and frothier than the film. This FOR THE BOYS is pretty! Under the musical direction of Ryan T. Nelson, the beat stays upbeat and brassy.  Big Band sounds keep Act I playful and zesty.  Singing ‘and stuff like that there,’ the stars of the show Michele Ragusa (Dixie) and Timothy Gulan (Eddie) captivate soldier and civilian audiences.  Their chemistry is genuine!  Ragusa and Gulan charm onstage as celebrities onstage.  They both transform of the decades. Their quips grow into heart-felt and chop-busting banter.  It’s fun!  Comedy aside, Ragusa thrills with beautiful ballads of “P.S. I Love You” and “What a Wonderful World.” 

Under the direction of Marc Robin, scenes transition with historical projections.  Projection designer Sage Marie Carter has made visual montages of each decade from the 1940’s to 1980’s.  Cast members have been photo-shopped in to authentic pictures of the time period.  It adds a little kitsch to the fascinating slide show.  Even though I’m totally engrossed in this imagery, it’s like reading a book and watching television at the same time.  I’m enjoying both but I feel like I’m missing a stronger connection to either.  Some of the projections are lengthy to allow for some dazzling costume appearances.  Unfortunately, it leads to a sluggish pace.  (Take a lesson from my sister, a lot of wardrobe changes aren’t necessary to show support to the troops.)  Still, FOR THE BOYS is for the people!  War is hell-of-a good time with the right show! 

For my boy that I’m giving two descriptors, Steve describes the show with ‘God bless America!’ and ‘entertaining, funny, patriotic.’

Running Time:  Two hours and thirty minutes includes an intermission

At 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire

Based on the film written by Neal Jimenez, Lindy Laub, and Marshall Brickman

Adapted by Aaron Thielen

Directed and choreographed by Marc Robin

Musical direction by Ryan T. Nelson

Wednesdays at 1pm and 8pm

Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm

Saturdays at 4:30pm and 8pm

Sundays at 1pm and 5pm 

Thru October 16th

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