World War II is sometimes referred to as "The Good War." Let Freedom Swing certainly gives off lighthearted vibes considering the associated death and destruction of the global conflict. But cheering up the troops before they went into battle was a task faced by many topflight entertainers, including Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Mickey Rooney and the Andrews Sisters.
Sitting at tables in the new cabaret theater at the National World War II Museum, we see some of these celebrities on film and hear their reminiscences. Then a talented live cast gives us a whirlwind of 32 songs from the 1940s.
You can see why the United States seemed both attractive and shallow to older, more traditional cultures. Even now, these bouncing guys and gals have a naive restraint. Nobody on stage would imagine putting his hand on his crotch. Instead we get cockeyed wit as in "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby?" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" — an irresistible swing anthem to patriotism that's only slightly clouded over by the knowledge the cat with the horn might get blown to pieces by a grenade.
Other troubling aspects of war are touched on as well, including separated lovers and soldiers worrying that their hometown sweethearts will move on without them. Mixed in are War Bond drives and Tin Pan Alley hymns to America.
Master of ceremonies Jimmy Murphy often joins in with the exuberant cast, which includes Wendy Miklovic, Jessie Terrebonne, Allison Kate Barron, William Bryant, Tara Brewer, Brian Falgoust, Andrea Pizza, Aaron Thacker and Jonathon Whalen. Blake Coheley directed and choreographed the show, and Jefferson Turner handled the musical direction and vocal arrangements.
Let Freedom Swing is a spirited hour of song and dance, although 10 minutes less would have helped rather than hurt the proceedings. — Dalt Wonk
Let Freedom Swing
8 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 1 p.m. Sun.; ongoing (no shows in February, returning March 5)
National World War II Museum, Stage Door Canteen, 945 Magazine St., 528-1943; www.nationalww2museum.org