War Bonds: The Songs and Letters of WWII
On Sunday afternoon, March 28, 2010 at the new South Dade Senior
High School, the Homestead Community Concert closed its 2009-2010 season
with a musical journey through a war that redefined the world:
War Bonds: The Songs and Letters of WWII.
This presentation was a multimedia living history cabaret of
interspersed photos, posters, letters from the front, headline news of
the time, and songs. The program had humor, warm sentiments, and
harrowing reminders of a time when the whole world seemed upside down.
There were scenes, songs, and references to the difficulties of
minorities and women who often gave the full measure but were too often
not given the respect or credit for their service and sacrifices. You
history buffs know that these issues were finally addressed by President
Reagan with posthumous medals, honors, recognitions, and in many cases
financial reparation. There were references to Nazi concentration camps,
the invasion of Poland, D-Day, Pearl Harbor, rationing of sugar and
butter and meat, bond drives, black-outs, gas shortages, women’s
professional baseball, Mc Arthur, and “the bomb”. This unforgettable
hour and a half performance weaved together the poignant and funny, the
entertaining, the historical, and several times the difficult to deal
with emotionally charged images and information. A movie screen
continuously showed photos and posters reflecting the letters being read
and/or the scene and song being dramatically and musically presented.
When asked, David Brunnen (narrator and actor) told this reporter
that the inspiration for the show grew out of a series of videoed
interviews he did with his father Chester where dad poured out memories
of his WWII experiences. Musically expressing these memories was perfect
for singer actor Serena Ebhardt. Her Cabaret background expressed itself
as a sweet soprano voice that melted a few male hearts around me during
the performance. At one point in the show, she came into the audience and
kissed an older gentleman sitting in front of me. He was a WWII veteran
and those of us around him felt his pain.
The pre-concert interview was warm, friendly, down-to-earth, and
most enjoyable. Our audience would have enjoyed listening to these two
talking about the evolution and experiences leading up to the show.
War Bonds is only 6 years old but is already being booked into the
2012 season. David grinned and enjoyed telling me that some audience
women have questioned how their spouses felt about the kissing scenes.
The advanced advertising poster shows the two in major “lip-lock”! David
and Serena were married in 1988 but like many professionals keep the name
associated with their careers. The little guy that joined them onstage
for the final bow was their 8-year-old most articulate and intelligent
A comment about the letters: Historical letters and quotes
(including those of Winston Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Franklin
D. Roosevelt) were collected from the historical records of the times.
Many of the personal letters are from Rutgers University Oral History
Collection. If you have an interest in the unedited letters, video/audio
from the show, go to:
www.unctv.org/warbonds/songs. One of the difficult moments in the show
for me and many others was a short scene where a wife, who has written to
her hospitalized husband encouraging him to get well and come home to her
and their daughter, gets this letter returned with the notice that her
husband had died. The accompanying song “White Cliffs of Dover”
heightened the sadness of this all-to-typical war-time tragedy.
Some of the 20+ songs presented included: “I’ll Get By”, “I’ll Be
Seeing You”, “Last Time I Saw Paris”, “This Is the Army Mr. Jones”,
“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” (the pianist and musical director Julie A.
Florin had some fun with this accompaniment), “I Don’t Want To Walk
Without You”, “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree”, “Rosie The Riveter”,
“Sentimental Journey”, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”, and “As Time Goes
By”. Boy, are there memories (good and bad) connected to so many of these
songs! One of the lighter moments was the song “Lilli Marlene” where
Serena (remember she is a soprano) imitates the low husky tones of
Marlene Dietrich as she entertained the troops. Serena’s deliberately
over-husky growling low notes with attitude (while staying completely in
character) was one of the audience favorite moments.
This concert was not the rah-rah! type evoking standing ovations.
War Bonds was more intimate in its approach and might be better suited to
a physically smaller venue. It did, however, reach us “where we live” and
will be remembered long after the theatre lights are shut off and the
equipment, props, and costumes are packed to travel.
The 2010-2011 season contracts are already signed. Next season’s
performance schedule will include: 3 Inspirational Tenors
singing both sacred and message-oriented secular music, Golden
Dragon Acrobats presenting a Chinese tradition that is more than
twenty centuries old, Coyote Run with songs and stories of Joan
of Arc, Sir Francis Drake, and ancient Celtic holidays and
legends, and Red Hot Jubilee Jam! taking us on a journey from
New York’s Tin Pan Alley to Cajun country and Nashville. For
more information on these shows, call (305) 235-8818, or