The wife and children of an actual TITA soldier sent an original This Is the Army program backstage for the cast to sign before the show.
"The revived This is the Army possessed a new book written (as well as produced and directed) by one Jason Ferguson, a young theatrical with an intriguing resume: mounter of plays in offbeat settings around London (a room over a pub, an old train tunnel), also an award-winning advertising copywriter and creative director apparently, and a bit of a social media savant. Ferguson’s concert version wedged Berlin’s originally massive musical onto Feinstein’s tight nightclub stage with a cast of six and a five piece band. Reductionist, however, it was not. Utilizing as it’s source material a charmingly candid memoir, The Songwriter Goes to War, written by This is the Army’s original stage manager, Alan Anderson, the hour-long production explored the show’s backstory while giving full voice to Berlin’s legendary score. Knockout renditions of, among others, “This is the Army, Mr. Jones,” “God Bless America” and “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning,” were delivered by performers standing in for Alan Anderson, Kate Smith and Mr. Berlin himself (Tommy McDowell, Ally Bonino and James Penca, respectively), while also illuminating lesser-known gems from the score like “What the Well-Dressed Man in Harlem Will Wear” (well put over by Elijah Caldwell).
Mostly, though, the new version dwelled on what, in retrospect, may be the most compelling aspect of This is the Army: its ground-breaking offstage social engineering. Many African-American performers populated the original cast, thus creating, by default, the only integrated military unit in America’s fiercely segregated armed forces. The equality and independence of that unit was preserved, protected and defended by Berlin personally against the racism of superior officers, who would not permit black and white soldiers to perform together onstage. Offstage, at least, Berlin demanded they be free to fraternize, travel and bunk together. The Army grudgingly acceded.
This is the Army’s cast of showbiz soldiers also inevitably numbered quite a few who were homosexual. Again protected by Berlin, they were free, if they chose, to come out, within the company’s confines. Many did, the first openly gay soldiers in U.S. military history.
These facts were nicely dramatized by the new production without over-statement. In fact, they proved unexpectedly moving, both for me and for my daughters, Lea and Sara, ages 14 and 12, who dug the great songs in This is the Army but really leaned forward with special empathetic attention when the plight of the show’s black and gay original cast members was touched upon. It made This is the Army matter in a way that nether Winston Churchill nor Irving Berlin could have imagined.
Berlin intended the show as a morale booster for the Allies and their soldiers. He would ultimately donate every penny that This is the Army grossed to the Army Emergency Relief Fund — more than $2 million (over $30 million today). As it turns out, This is the Army remains a morale booster today for very different reasons. What went on in front of the curtain seems secondary to the breakthroughs behind the scenes. It’s a shame, really, that Winston Churchill did not get to ask Irving Berlin questions he actually was equipped to answer; questions about his show, This is the Army. That might have turned into quite a conversation." - Barry Singer, Huffington Post
"I’ve always been interested in the bringing the art world and theatre a little closer together."
Kevin Spacey, Actor & Artistic Director, Old Vic
A very cool “pop up” art show and theatre experience, Tunnel 228 seemed to have come out of nowhere. From a mysterious website which posed as a legit rail cleaning business, people could get free tickets to the event via a hidden link.
The show included work by ATMA, Mark Jenkins, Antony Micallef, Slinkachu, Polly Morgan, Vhils, Xenz, and Busk. If you were able to get tickets, it was moving, frightening, and memorable.
"No company has done more to expand the idea of what theatre can do than the engrossing, meticulous, shrewdly secretive and constantly changing Punchdrunk."
Susannah Clapp, The Observer
"Exquisite, visceral theatre."
Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard
The audience entered an old pub, in the Clapham neighborhood of London, where the show took place all around them.
Ragtime was nominated for many awards in the 2011 London theatre season. Years later, it is still mentioned in the London press to highlight the value of bringing large musicals to more unique spaces.
"The result is a resounding success on many levels and despite any restrictions in scale, budget or cast this remains an epic production."
"This is a formidable production which showcases what can be achieved on the London fringe."
"The production works because, as in the real New York and the real London, everyone is forced together- audience and cast. We see the fear in Tateh's eyes as he fears losing his teenage daughter to illness or predatory men; we feel Coalhouse's desolation (Kansley's singing is emotive and his acting even more affecting); and we feel Sarah's love for the baby she had abandoned in such trauma (in a cast of talented singers, Ms James is the standout voice). The production uses no microphones and no special effects and is all the stronger for it. Through the power of theatre, we really are transported 3000 miles in distance and 100 years in time, as a small stage turns into a sprawling city."
"It is the best and biggest value show in London. Don't miss it!"
"A tremendous achievement that brims with infectious fervour."
"This show is as good to look at as it is to hear." British Theatre Guide
"Full of heart too is a production that conducts a masterclass in how to stage Fringe musicals and says that, contrary to the American way, bigger it not always better." The Reviews Hub
"The exciting thing about a piece of theatre this well produced (is it) gives audience members a taste of what New Yorkers get when visiting an off-Broadway venue." A Younger Theatre
"...the material makes for a rousing production and the intimacy of the setting makes rawness of the show even more apparent." Spoonfed
Winner - Offie Award Nominee - WhatsOnStage Award Nominee - BroadwayWorldUK Award Time Out 'Best of 2011'