May 8, 1945 ... V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day), when Germany surrendered to the Allied Forces. September 2, 1945 ... V-J Day (Victory in Japan Day), when Japan Representatives signed the Surrender of Japan aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. This May, as we soon will observe Memorial Day, there is added significance, as we honor and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in serving our wonderful country.
To commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the events which brought an end to World War II, the Eldred World War II Museum and the McKean County Historical Society are presenting a World War II USO Style Show: “70 years of Red, White, and Blue.” The performance will take place May 30, 2015 at 7:30pm in the Bromeley Family Theater on the Campus of the University of Pittsburgh in Bradford, PA.
According to Ardyth R. Van Scoy, creative director, choreographer, and costumer of “70 Years of Red, White & Blue,” this production is not to be missed: “Expect a performance very similar to what the troops would have seen during World War II.” Van Scoy, who has been working on the show for six months, has an extensive background in music, theater, and costuming. A graduate of St. Bonaventure University, Van Scoy holds an art degree and an impressive resume, for not only was she involved in many on-campus productions, but she was a professional costumer for four years in theaters all over western New York. Van Scoy is a resident of Limestone, NY, and has been a performer in theaters in western New York and northwestern Pennsylvania for over fifteen years.
Additionally, Van Scoy has been involved with the McKean County Historical Society for several years. Her relationship with the historical society began when she completed her college internship as a student at St. Bonaventure University. Later, she directed and starred in the historical society’s production of “Belle Boyd: Confederate Spy,” and directed an ensemble-performance of traditional folk music, “Front Porch Melodies.” According to Van Scoy, “I’ve always had a passion for history, and an important part of this production is the historical accuracy of our costumes.” To that end, Van Scoy made all of the show’s female characters’ wardrobes from authentic patterns from the 1940s and reproduced patterns. The male characters’ wardrobes are also authentic, as Van Scoy and her crew were fortunate to find many original pieces of clothing from the 1940s.
The authenticity of “70 Years of Red, White & Blue” extends beyond the show’s costuming, for the performances are thoughtfully based on USO shows of World War II. Rather than a traditional play with a linear plot, USO (United Service Organization) live shows featured the headlining entertainers of the day in different musical and comedy routines. The USO is probably most well-known for its performances called Camp Shows, in which Hollywood stars entertained U.S. troops overseas to boost morale during the war. Over the course of the war, the USO did thousands of performances for the troops, featuring such stars as Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, and many more. Not only did these performances bring home to the G.I., but they also rallied the spirits of those at home waiting for their loved ones’ return.
According to Van Scoy, the eight cast members of “70 Years of Red, White & Blue” would have been a fairly typical sized cast for a USO show. The four actors and four actresses, among whom is Van Scoy, will be performing the roles of the Andrews Sisters, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Martha Raye, Betty Hutton, Carole Landis, Francis Langford, and Al Jolson. In the words of Van Scoy, “I’m really fortunate to be working with such a great group of actors from this area who are all working so hard to make this a wonderful show.” Cast members hail from Angelica, NY; Elkdale, NY; Hornell, NY, Humphrey, NY; and Bradford, PA and have worked hard over the past several months to collaborate on this production. Audience members can expect an entertaining variety of solo performances, duets, and group numbers, along with a mixture of familiar tunes and lesser-known songs that were very popular in their day.
“70 Years of Red, White & Blue” wouldn’t be quite the same without the accompaniment of live music. Four local musicians including a percussionist, a pianist, a horn/trumpet player, and a bassist will bring each musical number to life. “Four musicians may not seem like a lot,” explained Van Scoy, “but that would have been standard or even above average during World War II. USO shows weren’t big productions and had to be able to travel around easily without a large crew.” Guests are encouraged to arrive before 7:30pm, as the “canteen” will be open for refreshments, and the band will be playing some dancing tunes.
Tickets to “70 Years of Red, White & Blue” are $35 and are on sale now at the Eldred World War II Museum and the McKean County Historical Society. Tickets are also available online at www.wwiishow.com via Paypal. World War II veterans should contact the Eldred World War II Museum at 814-225-2220 or the McKean County Historical society at 814-887-5142 for information on how to get a complimentary ticket for a front row seat. To learn more about the show and view cast photos, visit the website listed or find “70 Years of Red, White & Blue,” on Facebook. “We’re looking into other venues to schedule more dates for this show,” explained Van Scoy, “but right now, our May 30 performance at the Bromeley Theater is our only date.”
Don’t miss out on this unforgettable performance in honor of our veterans, remembering that freedom isn’t free.