The Providence School, located in Jacksonville, Florida paid tribute to military veterans on November 9, 2017 with “Silent Victory,” an original musical in two acts. The production, which was free and open to the public, was staged to honor those who currently serve or have served our country through military service. The tribute included gifts given to veterans from the school and sponsors of the event.

The play was one of the most unusual we have reviewed. It was written just for this occasion by musical theatre students under the direction of Jennifer Hudson, Director of Choral & Dramatic Activities. Fifteen students studying Musical Theatre Techniques interviewed many veterans to learn about the events beginning in 1941 that led our nation to war, and then wrote the script; almost all of them appeared on stage as cast members.

The book used many of the songs that were popular with both troops and civilians during World War II. It was great to once again hear “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” “Moonlight Serenade,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” and “I’ll Be Seeing You.” Other songs were chosen to express poignancy; selections from “The Civil War” by Jack Murphy and Frank Wildhorn included “I Never Knew His Name,” and “Sarah.”

Students who portrayed army recruits waiting for a bus sang “I Gotta Go,” an original song composed by Providence students. Bryan de Padua, John Gualillo and Matthew Welcome wrote the music; Allison Matthews wrote the lyrics.

The show opened in Summer, 1941 with young men deciding to join the Army and going off to boot camp, and then to a base hospital for physicals. The first act also has the men in uniform going to a USO Club. Performers included the famous Andrew Sisters (Alice Matthews, Hayley Stoddard, and Angela Pisano) who were joined on the bandstand by popular crooner Bing Crosby (Issac Kozel). During this act, we could see the difficulties wartime would bring to the families and romantic lives of young men and women.

The second act, set in 1943, progressed through an Army camp, a battlefield, a chapel, a hospital, and departure from Europe. Rounding out the cast were students Nathan Yee, Jeff Yee, Rebecca Holcomb, Amberly Dickens, Alyson Culbertson, Bethany Raab, Hannah Cereghino, Stovie Weems, Bryan Morris and Rebecca Johnson.

The concluding number featured the entire company – forty-four members of the Providence Chorale and additional cast members – singing “The Stars and Stripes” followed by a salute to the Armed Forces with the military anthems of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force.

The music was excellently played by local professional musicians who called themselves “The Swingin’ Stallion Stompers.”

After the final curtain, a reception was held in the lobby where guests were served generous portions of delicious cakes.

Although we have mentioned many of the participants in the wonderful evening, this endeavor had the support of the school’s entire student body and staff. Additionally, the University of North Florida, Florida State College of Jacksonville, and Episcopal School assisted with lighting, props and costumes. Thanks go to all for an evening filled with inspiration.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.