By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
Jody Madaras, the song and dance man from Pemberville, created the musical “The All Hands on Deck Show” as a celebration of the World War II generation.
The show brings together more than 40 hits from the era, tied together by a plot about a USO troupe. The show has found a home in Branson, Missouri, when it is not touring the country.
As the members of that generation pass from the scene though, Madaras said he’s finding fans from an unexpected cohort. “We’re seeing a lot of Vietnam veterans,” he said. “The whole show is about unity. The Vietnam veterans I’ve spoken to and gotten to know have a yearning for unity.”
The country was not a unified when they were sent to war, he said. Now they see this show about their parents’ generation as providing a sense of what they miss and long for.
“All Hands on Deck” will return to the Valentine Theatre in Toledo Sunday, March 4, for a 2 p.m. matinee. Click here for tickets. https://www.etix.com/ticket/p/7156800/all-hands-on-deck-toledo-valentine-theatre
“In six years I’ve personally learned a lot about our country just meeting these people,” said Madaras. “One of thing I’ve learned that I didn’t know early on is that in 1942 every American had a purpose. Every citizen had a purpose. Every citizen felt like they could contribute to the country.
“That could be the key to our future,” he said. It’s something his generation – he just turned 47 – could learn from and emulate. “That idea of every American having a purpose, I don’t think we have that kind of mindset.”
That comes through in the songs, he said, especially the Rosie the Riveter. The famous image of the bicep flexing worker flashes on the screen. “These are women with a purpose; that’s powerful.”
Madaras hopes the show, which he co-created, “in some small way” reminds people of the need for unity and a sense of “contributing to something greater than our own specific interests.”
That may be a lesson for some of the show’s younger listeners. He said he’s seeing young families attend with their children. The parents want the kids to know these songs, and hear them performed live with a real orchestra.
The show continues to evolve, Madaras said. He’s added another level of media. Photos are projected as a back drop behind the songs. So a photo of James Cagney pops up as the cast sings “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” There’s even an image of a Maxwell House coffee can as they sing the company’s jingle. “They howl at that,” Madaras said.
The images add historical context and a sense of the times, he said.
A new service theme has been added to the score. When the cast was doing a teaser set, an older man approached Madaras and said he’d seen the show. He liked it, but noted in the section when all the military themes are performed, the Merchant Marine was left out. The Merchant Marine played a key role in the war effort, ferrying supplies and troops, across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the veteran mariner told him.
Madaras said he had looked and could not find the Merchant Marine theme. Not long afterward he had a communication from a lawyer, and enclosed was a copy of the song “Heave Ho!” written by Jack Lawrence.
Madaras reduced the orchestration for a 27-piece orchestra for his nine-piece swing band, and the Merchant Marine is now represented.
The biggest change for the show is a switch in Branson venues. As of this year, the show has moved to the Andy Williams Theatre, where starting in fall it will be the morning show. The show had been at the Dutton theatre for two years.
Madaras noted that older people were traveling less to Branson and demand for the show to tour was ticking up. The arrangement with the Williams, also known as the Moon River Theatre, will allow for a more extensive touring schedule.
Madaras is bringing a new cast to Toledo. Jonathan Steffins and Kelly Murphy are joining Madaras and long-time cast member Valerie Hill. Madaras brings his music director and pianist John Raczka as well as his bassist Eric Green on the road with him, filling out the rest of the band with top area musicians. At the Valentine, the band will have: Michael Sanders, drums; Gene Parker, Steve Wood, and Shannon Ford, reeds; Ric Wolkins and Charles Saenz, trumpets; and Dan Saygers, trombone.