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Posted on Thu. May. 01, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

Fort Wayne Civic Theatre show chronicles lives of The Andrews Sisters

Toes will tap to sound of swing, boogie-woogie music

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‘Sisters of Swing’

What: The Fort Wayne Civic Theatre presents the musical based on the story of the Andrews Sisters, the harmonious trio that made a name for itself during the swing and boogie-woogie music eras.

When: 8 p.m. Friday and May 9, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and May 10, and 2 p.m. Sunday and May 11.

Where: Arts United Center, 303 E. Main St.

Cost: Adults, $26; ages 23 and younger, $15; and seniors at Sunday matinees only, $22. Purchase tickets at www.fwcivic.org; call 424-5220; or buy them at the box office at the main entrance of the Arts United Center, open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, noon-4 p.m. Saturdays and before shows.

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Long before Bette Midler introduced the song “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” to a new generation in the early '70s, the Andrews Sisters' recording of it became one of the iconic songs of World War II.

People of a certain age will remember the sisters – Patty, Maxene and LaVerne – for their immense popularity and success, as well as their close harmonies. The group sold more than 75 million records and charted 113 Billboard hits.

Their lives, legacy and performances of swing and boogie-woogie music are chronicled in a musical, “Sisters of Swing,” which the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre presents this weekend and next at the Arts United Center.

Robert Shoquist, scenic designer and technical director at the Civic, is guest directing this production.

“I love the music,” he said. “It's a lot of fun.”

Shoquist is only 38, but he has a great appreciation for swing music.

“It's something you don't hear much anymore,” he said, noting that it had a resurgence in the mid-'90s.

The Andrews sisters began singing in the mid-'20s when they'd harmonize in the living room of their Minnesota home while listening to another group, the Boswell Sisters. The Andrews Sisters started entering local contests and soon landed their own record contract.

Their popularity peaked between the '30s and the '50s. Aside from “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” they are known for other songs: “Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree,” “Rum and Coca-Cola” and many more. The Civic show will feature 25 Andrews Sisters songs.

The sisters danced, too, although Shoquist said, “The movements were closer to the vest. It wasn't dance so much as it was synchronized movement.”

The sisters also were heavily involved in the war effort during World War II.

“They were probably second to Bob Hope in their efforts to support the troops,” Shoquist said. “They really became the girl next door — the poster child for the troops abroad. The guys just loved their sounds.”

By the 1950s, the Andrews Sisters' glory days had wound down. In 1954, Patty left the group to try for a solo career, which didn't have much success. In 1956, they reunited, but by that time the public's interest had turned to rock 'n' roll, and older groups like the Andrews Sisters were left behind.

But the popularity of their music endures.

“I knew it would be a show that would appeal to our core subscribers,” Shoquist said. “Our subscriber base skews a little older, and so it fits right into the type of programming they enjoy the most.”

But the show should appeal to other demographic groups who may not be familiar with the Andrews Sisters, he added.

The three sisters – Patty (played by Meagan Solloway), Maxene (played by Jessica Butler) and LaVerne (played by Elyse Losen) – will be accompanied on stage by a three-piece jazz combo featuring a piano, upright bass and drums.

clarson@news-sentinel.com


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