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'Kilroy Was Here!' at Liberty

Patriotic, 1940s musical to be staged April 21-23.

"Kilroy Was Here!" — a musical salute to American military personnel during early WWII — will be presented next week at Liberty Middle School. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 21-23, at 7 p.m. each night. The $5 tickets are on sale now in the school cafeteria.

"THE SHOW takes place in 1942 and will appeal to the audience because it's a patriotic musical and parallels society today with our renewed faith in patriotism," said theatre arts director Jody Scott. "It'll bring to the forefront what we and our country stand for."

And during the finale, Liberty will play each military service's anthem while parents and neighbors march into the theater in uniform. Then everyone will sing "America the Beautiful."

The musical's set mostly in a USO club in Brooklyn and involves soldiers, spies, USO workers and female riveters. It also tells the story of Joe Kilroy, a cryptographer for America's OSS (Office of Strategic Services) working undercover as an army soldier.

Students auditioned in November and have been rehearsing since December. There are 32 speaking parts and 35 chorus members, and another 20 students are on the technical crews.

Seventh-grader Danny Lucas plays Kilroy. "He just enlisted in the army and is temporarily stationed in Brooklyn," he said. "He's a nice guy, kind of a daydreamer, and likes to doodle. Wherever he goes, he doodles himself looking over a wall, and he wants military personnel worldwide to do the same thing."

"He does it so soldiers everywhere will have a friend to count on," explained Alyssa LeBlanc, 13, who plays Gladys, a riveter who falls in love with Kilroy. Added Danny: "It's something to lighten their moods."

Excited to get the lead in the show, he said, "It's a lot of work memorizing all the lines and making sure I say everything right. But I like being someone else and making the role my own character." Like Scott, Danny believes the musical will strike a chord with audiences because "it takes place during wartime and we're in a war."

Besides that, he said, "The songs are cool because they're very 1940s — Andrews Sisters type, three-part harmony. My favorite is the one I get to sing, 'Kilroy Was Here,' because it's very jazzy."

Alyssa describes Gladys as a "confident and high-spirited, 18-year-old" whose best friends, Valerie and Melba, are also riveters at the shipyard. "We're always together, checking the newsstand for war news and going to the USO for social functions," said Alyssa. "And we get jobs with the USO so we can meet boys."

AS FOR HER role, she said, "I love it. It's lots of fun because Gladys is kind of like me — girlish, but with a tomboy side — and I get to be a big flirt."

Haili Hartman, 13, plays Valerie. "She's sweet and nice, and I like playing her because I get to sing," she said. "My favorite song is 'We'll Meet Again.' She's talking to the boys about to go to war." Playing Melba is Allison Nasta, 12. "She's an airhead and 18," said Allison. "I want to be an actress in real life, and it's fun to play a ditzy part."

Eighth-grader Lindsay Malinchak portrays Ruth Taylor, a USO volunteer and the club's manager. "When people come for social gatherings, I dance with them," said Lindsay. "The club is like a huge family and so is the play. I get to know everyone in the play and in real life while I'm rehearsing." She said her character changes quickly "from emotional to sad to happy — it's awesome." She also's pleased that "Kilroy" is both a love story and a comedy.

Classmate Neema Atri, 13, plays Professor Milton Sullivan, a German spy disguising himself as a hypnotist. "He's trying to get troop information from Kilroy with his hypnotic techniques," he explained. "My role is sort of flamboyant in the way I act and dress. I wear a ruffled shirt, black bowtie and black cape."

He said it's tough slipping back and forth between his good and evil personalities "because I have to switch my tone of voice and posture." But Neema loves playing a bad guy because "in life, you can't be villainous in a good way. And it helps me see what it's like to be a villain." His favorite song in the show is "Spies" because of its "tango-y beat."

Also decked out in spiffy duds is eighth-grader Michael Bottorff, 14. For his role as Elliot Martin, government man, he sports a fedora hat, tie, white shirt and slacks. "He's kind of based on Elliott Ness, who arrested Al Capone," said Michael. "It's my job to find out who's trying to get the secret information from Kilroy and arrest them."

In his best tough-guy voice, he describes his character as serious and straightforward, "like Humphrey Bogart in 'The Maltese Falcon.' I say, 'Give me the facts,' and I don't take no guff." Michael likes the fact that Martin's getting information to protect his country and is such a strong, no-nonsense person.

And praising director Scott's choreography, he said the dances are really good: "They're stylized and really capture the essence of the 1940s' jitterbug and swing."

Eighth-grader Stephanie Kelly, 14, portrays Hermione, newsstand operator and German spy. "I have my secrets," she said. "It's my mission from Berlin to find out where the U.S. cargo ships are rendezvousing so I can tell the German U-Boats where to attack. I'm evil."

HER CHARACTER'S always in control, and Stephanie likes this departure from how she normally acts. "I get to yell and scream and also pretend I'm clueless and don't know what's going on," she said. "I wear crazy skirts, slick my hair back and wear lots of makeup." She also likes learning about the period's history and believes audiences will enjoy the musical.

"Ms. Scott wants the audience to be moved to tears, and it's so moving," said Stephanie. "It also has great music, and I'm glad to be a part of the show." Her favorite number is "Spies" because "I get to wear a big trench coat and slink around the stage." Added Stephanie: "Ms. Scott has taught me how to act professional. She makes sure everything runs like clockwork and helps bring out the qualities she likes. It's a great experience to work with her."

Also playing a deceptive character is Kathryn Peterson, 15, in the role of Angie — Ruth Taylor's USO assistant and a German spy. "I like the plot," she said. "And Ms. Scott makes it fun because she's nice and has a funny sense of humor. She says acting is reacting so, even if you know what the person's gonna say to you, you have to pretend you don't."

Kathryn says her role's cool because "at the USO, everybody thinks I'm American; but then I'm a spy and everyone's shocked." Her favorite song is "Don't Say No to the USO."

Jonathan Blake, 13, and Alex Adere, 14, play Kilroy's two best friends, army privates Leo Pickford and Carl Ryder, respectively. Alex said his favorite song is "Kilroy Was Here" because "I'm one of the six people in it."

Jonathan's pleased because "I have the third most lines for the boys' parts and I'm in lots of different scenes. Because I'm on stage a lot in the front, people will notice me." He's also thrilled because "at the USO, we get to eat a whole load of doughnuts — for real."

Playing USO volunteer Edith is seventh-grader Katie Giwa-Osagie. "She's a high-energy type and is in all the dance scenes," said Katie. "Her lines suit my [own] personality, and I get to interact with friends and meet new people. It's the experience of a lifetime — in real life."

Amy Root, 14, and Jess Starr, 13 1/2, portray an Air Force service pilot and Women's Army Corps member, respectively, and go to the USO club for an interview about women in the military. Amy says her character, Marion Gifford, is excited to be in the Air Force and, "when guys laugh at her and ask why she doesn't want to stay home and wash dishes, she stands up for herself."

Amy also likes her costume — a green jacket with military patches and insignia. Jess, too, is pleased with her role. "It's fun because I never thought, in a million years, that I'd play the part of a military officer," she explained. "And getting to wear all the pins and medals is so cool."