NCR News November 1944

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Opening night! The hustle and bustle of backstage preparations gave the small by adequate Rubicon Hall a big time theater air at 7:00 P.M. came and with it, in groups and alone, the would-be actors and actresses, arms laden with costumes and hearts laden with stage fright. The smell of grease paint and burnt cork mingled with the rustle of grass skirts and the swish of taffeta and net formals as preparations got well under way and the property men were rushing madly back and forth getting the last bottle in place and the last chair on stage.

Out front, Chuck Gastineau‘s five-piece band, with Helen Dissinger tickling the ivory keys, gave out with startling off-key tuning and snatches of songs as the audience-to-be, drifted in, greeting friends and fellow workers as they found their seats.

As 8:00 P.M. drew nearer, confusion reigned supreme in the dressing room and last-minute swipes of comb and powder puff and arrangements of costumes added to the tension of the remaining seconds before the opening. As the “on stage” call came, we could hear the band opening the show with an original rendition of “Der Fuehrer’s Face” and a hush fell over the audience as the house-lights dimmed and the curtain opened to the strains of “Sidewalks of New York.”

The setting was that of a dingy, smoke-filled barroom and raucous talk and laughter came from the tables where Fran Scarborough, Bob Roeckner, Dixie Killian, Mary Hayes, Ruth Nieprask, and Clarence Charlton gave a good impersonation of rough and tough characters while “yours truly” strutted around carrying trays and bottles and calling orders to Frankie behind the bar, setting the stage for “Corky” and Paul Snyder in a true Bowery love scene as Margaret Jardina rocked the hall with her rendition of “St. Louis Blues!” As Janis Bowers and Paul went into their Apache dance, “Corky” gave out with “Tess’ Torch Song” which ended Act I.

The “between the acts” song by our own WAVE Katie Farr was done beautifully and as the curtain opened for the second time we, behind the stage, began to breath more freely–the show was well under way and maybe we weren’t so bad after all.

Second Act

The audience hardly knew what to expect as Frankie rolled that red, white. and blue barrel onto the stage and when he set it up and out popped Ed Frederick in full blank face minstrel costume to crack a few jokes and play the bones as only he can, you could tell by the enthusiastic greeting he was going to be appreciated.

The closed curtains lent an air of wondering expectation to the hall. Into this stepped Virginia Fox, and the song she presented was a credit to her talents. Then the band shifted ot a little warmer tempo as Johnny Stutz, presiding back stage, pulled the curtains and a pair of hot taps presented themselves on the feet of Janis Bowers, dancer extraordinary. To top this off, the songs presented by Mary Fox and Margaret Jardina fitted in perfectly.

Appreciative whistles reverberated over the sighs and exclamations from the audience as the curtains rose again to disclose Hawaiian dancers in colorful regalia reposing on the dimly lighted stage as Jean and Ruth Nieprask went into “Aloha.” The chorus, composed of Bea Watson, Dorothy Ludwig, Dixie Killian, and “yours truly,” gave their dance as a mere preliminary to the pounding, swaying rhythm of Janis‘ native Hula as she beat out the “Hawaiian War Chant.” Background music was furnished by Viola Charlton and Charlie Allen with guitars and the sweet strains of Bill Coughlin’s steel guitar lent atmosphere to the number.

We all felt pretty good by that time and the confusion backstage has lessened though makeup and costumes were strewn helter-skelter in a manner that was to give us one grand headache when the time came to clean up. The finale got underway with songs by Francis Scarborough, Mary Hartsock and Mary Hayes. Then little Shirley Conger thrilled us all with one of the cutest song and dance acts of the evening–a wonderful performance for a nine-year old. Additional songs were presented by Jean Nieprask and Katie Farr, and Margaret Jardina ended this number with a fast an furious military tap.


Comedy plus was the next number which on our script was entitled merely as “Bea Watson and Her Boys.” Then the final scene was revealed with the whole cast on stage as Janis went into her dance on the barrel top and Ed Frederick did a little more bone playing, while Bob Roeckner gave an exhibition of some real baton twirling.

As the curtains closed on the final strain of “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” sung by the entire cast, the band began to tune up in prepara-

(Continued on Page Forty-three)

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