Pridemore Playhouse shines again : Review of the play ‘Keep This For Me: Memories of the Last World War’

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Photograph taken by Brittani Tuttle

‘Keep This For Me: Memories of the Last World War’ had it’s world premiere in the Pridemore Playhouse on Friday to packed seats filled with students, parents and war veterans.

Directed by Amy VanKirk of the Radford University Dance Department and Tommy Iafrate of the Theatre Department, ‘Keep This For Me’ chronicled World War II as it was told through letters from soldiers and their families, newspaper articles, and journal entries.

This musical production was based upon the history of VanKirk’s family, specifically her grandfather Mart and grandmother Fran. VanKirk found her grandfather’s journal in 2011, which detailed his time in the Army Air Corps from 1944 to 1945. This journal was an instant inspiration for this production that VanKirk called “a labor of love”.

This performance was a window to the past filled with classic songs from the war era, a live big band, swing dancing, and love between women, mothers and their soldiers. There were even atmospheric effects and video projections to add to the dimension of the performance.

Seeing this production evoked so many emotions in me. Especially with Scene 5: Pinup and Scene 10: Just About a Miracle, the dancing and music in combination with each other were so powerful and stirring. I often found myself thinking “Wow” multiple times throughout the show.

One of the major aspects I was impressed with the most was the live big band! Being a lover of classic big band and jazz music from the 20s and 40s, I was incredibly pleased that the directors chose to add a live musical element to the show. I was in a constant state of tapping my feet to the songs and humming along to tunes like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Cheek to Cheek.”

The show came to an end with Scene 11: Stars, and it was a gorgeous, ethereal ending that nearly brought a tear to my eye. The use of projection during the reading of letters to show a sky full of stars on the Pridemore ceiling was beautiful and a smart move on the part of the directors.

Overall, I absolutely loved this production and was so happy to have experienced it at the world premiere. ‘Keep This For Me’ beautifully captured the true spirit and essence of the 1940s war era. The costumes were grand, the music was infectious and the love between the women and their soldiers was powerful.

While I wish there could have been more of a plot, I understand and appreciate the directors’ goal with this production, and ultimately, I think they achieved it.

By: Brittani Tuttle