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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Review: Home for the Holidays with the Victory Belles

Posted By on Wed, Dec 20, 2017 at 10:20 AM

click to enlarge The Victory Belles sing to audience members at BB's Stage Door Canteen. - JEFF STROUT
  • JEFF STROUT
  • The Victory Belles sing to audience members at BB's Stage Door Canteen.

For a sweet dollop of all-American nostalgia, you can’t beat The National World War II Museum’s seasonal performance of Home for the Holidays with the Victory Belles. For an hour, a bevy of beautiful singers serves up sugar and spice and everything nice in a lively variety show.

Military men and women serving abroad often find holidays away from their families and friends to be particularly difficult, and these singing sweethearts are a soldier’s hometown dream. Decked out in plaid taffeta skirts and vibrantly colored frocks accented by ribbons and rhinestones, the Victory Belles are pure enchantment. Performing before backdrops festooned with holiday decorations and traditional scenes such as a blazing fireplace hung with red stockings, they merrily carol while trimming a tree, toting packages and puttering around the kitchen with darling holiday aprons tied around their waists.

The nostalgic numbers (“Christmas in New Orleans”) and swinging tunes (“Hey Santa!”) are not necessarily wartime-era nor America’s most familiar holiday fare. Singers Emily Gyan, Shelbie Mac, Mandi Mueller and Jessica Mixon cheerily deliver standards, including “Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls” and “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” but also enjoy “messing up the kitchen” and “mixing up the batter with a little dash of laughter” singing “Bakin’ Cookies” by The Ellas, a contemporary songwriting vocal jazz trio. Another modern tune, “Holiday Lament (The Fruitcake Song),” taken from the musical revue That Time of Year, sung by Mixon, Mueller and Gyan, comically laments the much maligned rum and candied fruit dessert.

In a nod to Christmas past, Mixon dons a turn-of-the-century gown while soulfully singing “Toyland,” written by Victor Herbert and Glen MacDonough for a 1903 operetta, and the group harmonizes a cappella on the traditional German folksong “O Christmas Tree” (originally “O Tannenbaum”). Costumed like toy soldiers in purple satin uniforms braided in gold, Mueller and Gyan charmingly tap to the martial music of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite. Mac awaits Santa’s arrival, mischievously tap dancing to “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” dressed in satin pajamas and a nightcap.

In 1954, Frank Sinatra asked legendary songwriters Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne to compose a Christmas song. They gave him the “The Christmas Waltz,” which this ensemble beautifully croons in three-quarter time. A high point of the show was Mac’s magical rendition of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music.

In a tribute to all the sister singing groups of the 1940s through 1960s, including The Lennon Sisters, McGuire Sisters, The Fontane Sisters, The King Sisters and The Andrews Sisters, the Belles put together a medley of nine holiday tunes sung in pitch-perfect, four-part harmony.

No BB’s Stage Door Canteen show is complete without the personal acknowledgment of military veterans. The Victory Belles circulate through the audience, serenading them with poignant love songs. But whether or not you come from the service or that era, beautiful women and marvelous melodies never go out of season.

Home for the Holidays with the Victory Belles
Dec. 20-23 & 26-27
11:45 a.m. Dec. 20-21 & 26-27
6 p.m. Dec. 21-23 & 26
The National World War II Museum, BB’s Stage Door Canteen, 945 Magazine St., (504) 528-1944

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