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CSU Theatre takes on Oh What a Lovely War with great success

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This weekend is the last chance to see CSU’s production of Oh What a Lovely War. As a history buff, I have a special attachment to the topic of life during the First World War, and so I am looking forward to getting another chance to see it this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The play, however, is much more than a historical account that only historians of World War One would care to see. It is actually chronicle of the war as told through actual songs, music, and documents from the time period. Authenticity is combined with drama, humor, and exceptional talent, to create an amazing collage of images and experiences that can move anyone.

First performed by Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, London, in 1963, O What a Lovely War received the acclaim of London audiences and critics, winning the Grand Prix of the Theatre des Nations festival in Paris that year. It is now considered a classic of the modern theatre.

As a student in England, the 1969 movie version deeply impacted director Eric Prince. “People were shocked and amazed to see this subject matter on stage, presented in such a cleverly produced way, using humor to disguise the seriousness,” said Prince. “For the current generation, it would be akin to making a comical musical about Vietnam or the Iraq War.”

This show presents challenges for any production company. Director Prince, designer Price Johnston, music director Bruce Burbank, and choreographer Scott Wright collaborate on this immense project featuring stunning photos, archive images, iconic recruitment propaganda, and music, songs and dances from the time of the Great War of 1914-18. Advanced production uses hundreds of photos and films, making it a powerful, multi-level production.

It is not surprising that the highly demanding Oh What a Lovely War is rarely done at the college level. The cast at CSU is made of up 19 actors playing 130 parts, with some performers taking on 10 or 11 different roles. This musical gives students, including eight freshmen, rare opportunities for multiple character development and collaboration. Much of the difficulty lies in perfecting the wide range of British, Belgian, German, Russian, French, Austrian, Serbian, and American accents. To achieve accuracy, Prince relied on dialect coach Paul Meier. And the work of the CSU Theatre Department has already been recognized: Prince said that several of the original cast members he has consulted were “impressed that a university in the United States could even take it on.”

The play provides a great perspective to high school students, as well as college age and adults who have studied World War One, but ultimately it is a story that affects everyone. “Great plays deal with great subject matter, elevating OWALW beyond entertainment with something relevant for every viewer,” said Prince.
 
The CSU Theatre Department has turned their hard work and dedication into a musical like no other. This show reminds us of a history that cannot be forgotten, and teaches us a little bit about ourselves in the process.

For more information on Oh, What a Lovely War, including how to purchase tickets, please visit the CSU School of the Arts.

Written by admin

December 10th, 2009 at 8:28 am

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