A group of Aiken High students got a sample of it, too – a time when the United States entered World War II in the early ’40s, and Hollywood stars like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby went overseas on USO tours to entertain the troops.
As the production’s director, writer and star, Jody Madaras, said, his show is modeled on Hope’s legendary tour in 1942. Certainly the war was a terrible event in world history, he said, but, “our country helped save the planet,” and the road shows had a significant role – selling war bonds to support the war effort.
The Aiken Performing Arts Group sponsored the “All Hands” appearance in Aiken. For all such plays and performances its members bring to the community, APAG also invites the performers to visit with students.
Madaras enjoyed the chance to work with the Aiken High students, joined by two of the singers, Amy Adkins and Natalie Berry, along with drummer and band leader Rob “Boom-Boom” Marino. Their rendition of the “Military Medley,” at the URS Center brought many veterans to their feet both nights, much to the vocalists’ admiration.
The revue included such classics as “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” “I’ll Never Smile Again” and “Don’t Fence Me In,” which Madaras performed for the students.
AHS student Brittany Winans couldn’t stop smiling and for good reason. She knows a lot of musicals from the past, having recently appeared at the URS Center in “The Pajama Game,” which debuted on Broadway in 1954 and became a movie three years later.
“I love musical theater and want it as a career,” Winans said. “It’s always fun to see other people coming into Aiken and see their success.”
Madaras, Adkins and Berry expressed that as well. They have other lives that provide them consistent salaries, but will audition endlessly to look for weekend gigs that, like this one, can go on for many weeks. What they emphasized to the students is to move through fear to find success.
Madaras recalled a time when he was in Germany, understudying for the musical “Crazy for You.” At the last minute, he got a call to get to the theater and prepare to go on.
“It was like they pushed me out on stage to play the lead role,” Madaras said. “It turned out to be a great show, and that was a huge boost of confidence.”
Fumni Harmon, Aiken High’s chorus teacher, appreciated the support of APAG and the school district for bringing the ensemble to the school.
“This is very much needed,” Harmon said. “It’s always good to see people who can show what’s out there. I will piggyback on what they said and take it back to my kids about being prepared for auditions. We’ve talked a lot about that.”
STAFF PHOTO BY ROB NOVIT Pictured, from left, are Natalie Berry, Amy Adkins and Jody Madaras – cast members of the World War II USO tour-styled “All Hands on Deck” performing for Aiken High students as part of a lecture program. The full cast performed at the URS Center for the Arts Thursday and Friday, sponsored by the Aiken Performing Arts Group.×