World War II-Era Musical Tribute Offers Sweet Remembrances

June 15, 2022

I’ll Be Seeing You ensemble – Courtesy of The Center for the Performing Arts. Used with permission.

Growing up in the fifties, I fondly recall listening to music from the World War II- era, which was still playing on radio and television. It was the soundtrack of the lives of my parents and their generation, who not only experienced the war, but also lived through the Great Depression before it. That generation was coined the “Greatest Generation” because of the people, who not only served the country both on the frontlines and at home, but also managed to effectively raise families at the same time. Nowadays, many from that time are gone or are increasingly passing away, but fortunately, their music lives on. And nowhere were those heartwarming tunes more abundantly represented in one glorious event than in “I’ll Be Seeing You: Love Stories of World II,” held Saturday at the Palladium at The Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel. A respectable 700 were in attendance.

Kathleen & Jerry Hacker – Courtesy of The Center for the Performing Arts. Used with permission.

A tribute to her parents and other couples, who lived and loved during the World War II-era, the one-night-only concert was produced, directed and written by local actor-singer-director Ellen Kingston. Presenting the event was The Center, where Kingston is employed as Director of Creative Events and serves as the concierge for artists who perform at the venue.

Kingston’s talent was not only evident in the first-rate quality of the production, but also on display was her resourcefulness as a producer. Besides casting the show with some of the most exceptional local talent around, Kingston also highlighted them in one of the finest performing arts venues in Indiana, if not the region. Taking full advantage of the Palladium’s state-of-the-art technical equipment and capabilities, her effort resulted in a first-class theatrical experience.

Incorporated in the presentation were well-produced projected videos, consisting of archival photos and memorabilia, which illustrated the stories of Kingston’s parents and other personal acquaintances, as well as images gathered from social media and other means. Featured were biographies of Eleanore and Harry McCafferty, Barbara and James Callaway, Jerry and Harriet McDermott, Margie and William Goodman, Kingston’s mother Margery Laughlin Johnson Henkel, Virginia Blankenbaker, and Mary Louise and Elbert Hyde.

As far as the sterling cast, many of whom were former colleagues of Kingston during her 12 performances in Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s “Yuletide Celebration,” they included Olivia Broadwater, Tiffany Gilliam, Jerry Hacker, Kathleen Hacker, Nathanael Hein, Joseph Perkins, Jr., Melissa Schott and Matthew Vire.

Olivia Broadwater – Courtesy of The Center for the Performing Arts. Used for permission.

The setlist for the concert numbered 35 songs, many of them the most popular and recognizable ones in the Great American Songbook, created by legendary composers. It was so extensive that it is impossible to list all my favorite performances. To name a few, they included “All the Things You Are,” “Blue Skies,” “From This Moment On,” “My Funny Valentine,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” “You’ll Never Know,” “Tennessee Waltz,” “The White Cliffs of Dover,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me, “Every Time We Say Goodbye,” and “I’ll Be Seeing You.” Giving the concert a musical theatre-flavor, all the songs were all performed as vignettes, utilizing set pieces and furniture to tell the stories.

Though each gifted performer, all with extensive credits, shined during their individual moments, emerging artist and soprano Olivia Broadwater and baritone opera-singer Nathanael Hein, both possessing star quality, really stood out. Also making an impression were the married couple, tenor Jerry Hacker and soprano Kathleen Hacker, two veteran and highly respected Indy artists, whom I have seen perform many times over the years and whose talents I greatly admire.

The instrumentalists were also impressive in flawlessly accompanying the singers. Band members included music director-pianist David Duncan, clarinetist Becky Chappell, bassist Billy Myers, drummer Rob West, and violinist Ginny Karel Womack.

Nathanael Hein – Courtesy of The Center for the Performing Arts. Used with permission.

Giving the production a Broadway quality was the all-star creative team, comprising costumer Stephanie Hollenbeck, wig master Andrew Elliot, production manager Ben Dobler, lighting designer Quinten James, and sound engineer Joe Wisner. Kingston’s daughter, Lisa Posson, made sure the show ran like clockwork, serving as the show’s director of production and stage manager.

Hats off to the enterprising Kingston for an ambitious, entertaining, touching and sentimental journey, filled with nostalgia for the proverbial “simpler times.” And kudos to the Center for the Performing Arts for giving the multi-talented impresaria the platform to exhibit her prodigious skills in such an immense setting and providing local artists with precious exposure. Perhaps this could be beginning of a fruitful, ongoing artistic collaboration between Kingston and The Center. If Saturday’s concert was any indication of what could unfold I, for one, would love to see such a partnership develop for the good of the community.

 

 

photo: Josh Humble

About Tom

Journalist, producer, director, Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, arts administrator, TV contributor, actor, model, writer and lyricist, Tom Alvarez has had an extensive career in media and the fine arts and continues to be an enthusiastic and devoted fan of both. His passion and unique background grant him insight, access and perspective to cover, promote and review the arts in Indianapolis, Central Indiana and beyond. Follow him on social media @tomalvarezartswriter and @tomalvarez1.

Alvarez has been writing about theatre, dance, music, cinema and visual arts for 40 years. His work has appeared in the Indianapolis Star, NUVO, Indianapolis Monthly, Arts Indiana, Unite Magazine, Dance Magazine, NOTE Magazine, and Examiner.com, among many other print and online platforms. A former contributor to Across Indiana on WFYI-TV, he currently has a regular performing arts segment on WISH-TV’s Life. Style. Live!

A principal of Klein & Alvarez Productions, LLC, Alvarez co-created “Calder, The Musical” and is the managing director of Magic Thread Cabaret. As an actor-model, he has appeared in numerous TV and print ads and is represented by the Helen Wells Agency and Heyman Talent Artists Agency.

On the Aisle Team

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