A musical journey back in time
Victoria Reed says she knew she was going to grow up and be in show business when she was just a toddler. She just never thought she’d find herself in New Orleans, running the theater programs at the National World War II Museum.
As the Creative Team leader, along with Sean Patterson, of the Museum’s Stage Door Canteen, she has been responsible for the script, musical selections and staging of their latest production, “On the Air.” This theatrical love letter to the music of the 1940s will run each Friday and Saturday night at 6 p.m. along with a brunch presentation at 11 a.m. on Sundays through June 26.
Working with five talented New Orleans-area actors, Victoria says she gets up every day thrilled to be able to present songs from the musical era she loves more than anything in the world. The daughter of a professional singer, she grew up hearing the music of the World War II singing act, the Andrew Sisters, in her home.
“I would pretend I was one of them and, at two years old, I’d pretend a broom was my microphone,” she laughs.
After graduating from university and a short-lived attempt at moving into the show biz world of New York, in 1996 she went to work for the United Services Organizations, the USO, taking groups of entertainers to U.S. troops in camp sites all over the world. Created in 1941, the USO's singular goal was, and still is, to provide services that will lift the spirits of America's troops and families.
“I’ve been to almost every place our troops are based, large and small,” she says. “I remember going to one in Egypt that had just eight soldiers. They couldn’t believe we would come to them. All they could offer us was some frozen orange juice and sugar cookies. But that was what it was all about for me.”
Her productions came to the attention of the WWII Museum founder, the late Stephen Ambrose, who asked her to bring a group to perform at the official opening of the museum on June 6, 2000. Ten years later, she was asked to return for the first-decade anniversary celebration. And, at the end of last year, after 25 years of living in New York, Victoria took the plunge and moved to New Orleans after being asked to become the resident director of the Stage Door Canteen.
An admirer of all veterans, but particularly those of that “greatest, now vanishing generation,” she says they are the inspiration for all her WWII theatrical and musical creations.
“The veterans really write the shows for me,” she says. “I just create them from what they have told me. I am always flattered when people tell me that the shows have heart because they really do come from my heart.”
“On the Air” is a charming new production about a fictitious local radio station on Mother’s Day, 1945. Both the set and the script are infused with New Orleans flavor, incorporating references to everything from Hubig’s pies to Octagon soap. On stage is a vintage Coke machine, on loan from Coca-Cola, as well as a calendar promoting French Market coffee. No question about the Crescent City flavor in this show.
So, for those of an age looking for a light-hearted nostalgic trip back in time, or younger folk who would love to just bathe in the warmth of a genuinely loving tribute to another era, you’d better get over to the Stage Door Canteen before the end of June, because after that, "On the Air" will be off the air.
For more information call 504-528-1943 or visit http://www.stagedoorcanteen.org/.
Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]