Fundraiser honors veterans
Voices rose, bodies shimmied and music poured out of the Lake Nebagamon Auditorium on Monday. For the actors and singers preparing for a Today performance, it was the storm before the calm. "Hopefully by Friday night, we'll all be together," said...
Voices rose, bodies shimmied and music poured out of the Lake Nebagamon Auditorium on Monday.
For the actors and singers preparing for a Today performance, it was the storm before the calm.
"Hopefully by Friday night, we'll all be together," said Kay Coletta, who penned the music-riddled "Lake Nebagamon Hollywood Canteen" script.
Ed Charbonneau has been performing in these local productions for 30 years with his wife, Doris. He promised the show would be interesting.
"We've been known to wing it ... even with the script in front of us," he said. "It's never the same show twice."
As three different musical acts rehearsed, the Charbonneaus waltzed to their own tune in their roles as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
"It's not going to matter if we're on key or not," said Debbie Anderson, channeling Patty Andrews of the Andrews Sisters.
"We've got the spirit," said Madonna Wickingson, dressed in second-hand glamour for her role as Lake Nebagamon church lady.
The players plan to whisk guests back in time to World War II. The brightest stars of Hollywood and Broadway came out to entertain the troops at the "Stage Door Canteen" in New York and the "Hollywood Canteen" in California. Tonight, the stars shine in Lake Nebagamon.
The event serves as both a fundraiser and a way to honor area veterans and military personnel.
"We've got wonderful things to celebrate," said Jerry Rieckhoff, who will take to the stage wearing his actual U.S. Army uniform. "A wonderful life; a wonderful family."
Rieckhoff served his country from 1951-53, including 17 months in Korea.
"I didn't find much time to go to canteens back then," he said. Today, he will croon Al Jolson's "Rockabye Baby" in the auditorium.
As guests enter the canteen, nurses will examine them and declare them 1-A (fit for duty). They will troop to the draft board for their marching orders. A last supper of soup and sandwiches will be served by Carol Mallegni and Michele Hughes before the "troops" are shipped off to London, Paris and Africa.
"As a special treat, there will be Spam hors d'oeuvres," Coletta said with a smile.
Then the players take the stage -- a pair of dueling hostesses and a potpourri of talented community members.
Wearing polka dots and corkscrew curls, Laura Shores plays Shirley Temple. Her rendition of "Good Ship Lollipop" has already won over the toughest critic.
"My son when I was practicing said, 'Mom, you sound like a little girl,'" she said. "I said 'I'm supposed to.'"
For the past five years, she's joined the local thespians in various dinner theaters, plays and musicals.
"(Kay) wrote me in every year," Shores said. "It's always a blast."
Anything can happen at a Lake Nebagamon show, the Charbonneaus warned.
One year, the two turned an extended lip-lock into a full-stage tussle when another actor missed his entrance. He finally appeared, shirt askew, to break them apart.
This year's show-stealers wear bandanas and blue shirts. "Andrews Sisters" Anderson, Jann Brill and Marge Kaszynski are known for their comic acting talents.
"These girls are going to be fun to watch," Rieckhoff predicted.
Paired with bugler Tony Breitzmann, they belted out "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" on Monday.
The production offers laughs, vintage music and even some dancing for the guests.
"It's just fun; I enjoy it," said Karen Lawler, who will do double duty Today night as Judy Garland and Jane Powell. "It's a good event for everybody here."
A short film on the late Rudy Gabrys of Lake Nebagamon will also be shown. Gabrys was shot down over France during WWII. He was hidden and later escaped with the help of the French Underground.
Money raised from the event benefits the Imogene McGrath Memorial Library.