The 1940s was the last time in the 20th century the entire country shared a common popular music. On radio, in theaters and ballrooms, the Big Bands were drawing record crowds while sustaining national morale during World War II.
In The Mood celebrates America’s Greatest Generation through song, music, costumes and choreogrpahy. Now in its 20th year, the musical revue is coming to Mesa Arts Center for a weeklong stand March 11-16.
Producer Bud Forrest created the show in 1993 for the World USO to commemorate the 50th commemoration of World War II. He spoke to GetOut about the music and fashion of the 1940s, and an era that won’t soon be forgotten.
Q: The 1940s and World War II have often been cited as a watershed event in American history. What role does Big Band music play in the telling of the history?
BF: I believe it is a very significant role. The 1940s is arguably the most significant decade in the 20th century, and Big Band music gave the energy and spirit to our troops and was very representative of America at that time. The trumpets, trombones, saxophones and the rhythm section make for a very powerful combination as a musical presentation.
Q: The fashion and the uniforms also play a prominent role in this revue. Why is this?
BF: My wife is the costume designer, so I’d better be careful what I say! Certainly it was a glamorous time — the clothes, the hairstyles, the types of shoes the ladies wore, the double-breasted big lapels on sports coats and suits and the baggy pants as represented by people like Frank Sinatra and The Andrews Sisters sort of set the standard for the culture. It was a time when people paid attention to our stars and emulated them. We do a great job of showing these clothes to give people a sense of what it was like to be there.
Q: What kind of effort does it take to put on a production like this?
BF: We have 19 people on stage — musicians, singers and dancers. Behind the scenes we have wardrobe and sound technicians, managers, tour buses, equipment trucks. It takes almost half a year to prepare to take this out on the road. To answer your question, it’s a large production.
Q: What is the age range of your audience?
BF: I always tell everyone it’s a family show from ages 8 to 98. We get the people who were there, who experienced it first hand, who get up out of their seats to dance and they get to re-live their youth once more. We get the Baby Boomers, who were the kids of these soldiers and mothers and grew up listening to that music. Then we have the young kids who have never seen anything like this before, and their mouths are wide open. They love the sound and the energy that comes from the stage — the music, melodies and energy is timeless.
Q: This show is now entering its 20th year. What do you account for its longevity?
BF: These are American songs, American lyrics, American melodies… take a song like ‘Stardust,’ which was written in the 1920s, long before the Big Band era, and it remains one of the most recorded songs in history. Every song in this production has a reason for being in there. There’s no story to ‘In The Mood,’ but the music is the real story. The combination of the song, uniforms, music and presentation is a testament to the American spirit in that glorious decade.
If you go
What: In the Mood 1940s musical revue
When: 2 p.m. March 11-16, 7 p.m. March 16 and 7:30 p.m. March 12 and 15
Where: Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St.
Cost: $34-$54 weekdays, $39-$59 weekends; seniors age 65 and older get $3 off
Information: (480) 644-6500 or MesaArtsCenter.com
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