It’s not every day that the streets of Perth turn into a scene from a classic musical like Singing in the Rain or On the Town, but that’s exactly what happens this summer every Thursday and Friday from 7 to 8 pm with the Classic Theatre Festival production of Far From Home.
Passersby and drivers alike have done double takes as they see individuals wearing 1940s costumes singing and dancing their way down Gore Street. Far From Home is set in 1945 as the war winds down and people try to adjust to the major changes they experience in civilian life.
This comical, music-filled tribute to the war brides who arrived in Perth after the Second World War is a family-friendly show that enlivens the sidewalks and alleyways next to Perth’s award-winning architectural facades. Indeed, they turn loading docks and assorted alleyways and courtyards into impromptu stages for dance numbers like Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning, a comic song that many a soldier applauded when thinking of the dreaded early bugle calls in the armed services.
The show’s characters also illustrate the uninhibited joy that often marked homecomings from the war (and which was celebrated in many movies of the era too). Indeed, people were ready to party after five years of food rations, air raid sirens, and long waits for letters home that were often cut up by the military censors. Young people who had had to cut short their teenage years and assume adult responsibilities embraced one last opportunity to be kids again, and that exuberance comes through in Far From Home.
The show will appeal especially to fans of swing music and dancing, with songs like I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo, In the Mood, For Me and My Gal, and Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me) given vivacious renditions by the talented troupe that also performs the morning walking play, The Prisoner of Petawawa: Mallory Brumm, Katie Irvine, Connor Lyon, and Connor Williamson. The show was directed by Joanna McAuley Treffers.
Playwright Laurel Smith notes that war brides often found that their adjustment to new lives was not as easy as one would think, given that there were still significant cultural and linguistic differences between Britain and Canada. Those differences make for some very funny moments, while tender renditions of torch songs like White Cliffs of Dover bring to life the heartfelt emotion that made putting a nickle into the jukebox at the Perth Tea Rooms such a romantic moment.
The Classic Theatre Festival is in the meantime continuing to run on its mainstage the hit Shaw play Mrs. Warren’s Profession, about the gradual reveal of a family secret, and is also planning the final mainstage show of the season, Angel Street (aka Gaslight,) a riveting psychological thriller.