Review by Craig Idlebrook
(Waltham) Try as we might, we are losing our connection to the World War II generation. As our veterans of the war and the home front blink out, so goes the tangible feel of an era when much of a country was united for one cause. In anticipation of this angst, we see the children of WWII veterans attempting to interpret that experience through movies and literature (i.e. Saving Private Ryan), but it is rare to get a fresh glimpse of how that generation might view itself.
The Reagle Theatre musical revue Remembering the 40’s provides such a rare, if rambling, opportunity. The perennial show is true to its title. It walks us through the 40’s, a decade dominated either by WWII or celebration, in songs and scenes.
For historians, this show could provide valuable insight into how a past generation wants to remember itself, showing a naïve population at the start of the decade which grows seasoned with heartache and loss. Then, in a collective beat of amnesia, the survivors of the war decide to drown their sorrows in escapist radio and good-hearted patriotism. The message seems clear: It was hell, it was right, it
is done. For many in the audience who lived through the time, the show is enough. They groaned at the right moments, sang along to their favorite tunes, and laughed before the punch-lines were delivered.
But theatergoers with little personal connection to the 40’s might find the show less accessible. To those on the outside, the revue keeps its heartbeat during the loose WWII storyline, but it then devolves post-war into community-theater skit night with scenes from Oklahoma, South Pacific and popular radio shows that last twice as long as needed. The performers are energetic, talented and earnest, but ultimately not enough to make up for the slow pacing and overlong script.
If you want a glimpse into the wistful memories of your grandparents, then this show is for you. If you want to find the meaning in their collective sacrifice, look elsewhere.