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posted: 6/11/2014 5:30 AM

Andrews Sisters tributes boogie onto local stages

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  • Kellie Cundiff, left, Brittany Stock and Carol Rose star in "Sisters of Swing," a Fox Valley Repertory tribute to the Andrews Sisters.

      Kellie Cundiff, left, Brittany Stock and Carol Rose star in "Sisters of Swing," a Fox Valley Repertory tribute to the Andrews Sisters.

  • Jordan Yentz, Sarah Larson and Casi Maggio star in Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's "A Musical Tribute to the Andrews Sisters," which runs through Sunday, July 27.

      Jordan Yentz, Sarah Larson and Casi Maggio star in Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's "A Musical Tribute to the Andrews Sisters," which runs through Sunday, July 27.

  • Patty Andrews, the last survivor of the three singing Andrews sisters, died last year at the age of 94. Two local shows pay tribute to the sisters.

      Patty Andrews, the last survivor of the three singing Andrews sisters, died last year at the age of 94. Two local shows pay tribute to the sisters.
    Associated Press, 1942

  • In the 1940s, Maxene, Patty and LaVerne Andrews were popular entertainers.

      In the 1940s, Maxene, Patty and LaVerne Andrews were popular entertainers.
    Associated Press

  • Kellie Cundiff, left, Brittany Stock and Carol Rose star in Fox Valley Repertory's Andrews Sisters musical revue "Sisters of Swing," which runs through Sunday, July 27.

      Kellie Cundiff, left, Brittany Stock and Carol Rose star in Fox Valley Repertory's Andrews Sisters musical revue "Sisters of Swing," which runs through Sunday, July 27.

  • Video: Andrews Sisters on film

 
By Megan Swindell
mswindell@dailyherald.com

Break out the bugles: World War II may be long over, but the sisters who brought Boogie Woogie to the troops are back.

More than 45 years after the Andrews Sisters last performed onstage together, two local shows pay tribute to the famous trio.

In St. Charles, Fox Valley Repertory's "Sisters of Swing" takes audiences through the family trials and familiar tunes of the Andrews Sisters, while Theo Ubique's cabaret tribute in Chicago has the feel of a tour. Both shows run through July 27.

"This show is only a few years old, so no one from this area has seen it," said John Gawlik, director of "Sisters of Swing" and a Wheaton resident. "Our show takes you through the history of the Andrews Sisters."

The sisters -- Patty, Maxene and LaVerne -- were household names in the 1940s, most famous for their USO tours during World War II and iconic swing-era harmonies.

Their hits include "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Rum and Coca-Cola" and "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree."

"Their type of singing was gone with rock 'n' roll at the turn of the decade," Gawlik said.

Their jitterbug dance moves lost their popularity as well, which gave Christie Kerr, "Sisters of Swing" choreographer, a whole lot of homework.

Kerr, of Lombard, has been dancing since she was 3.

"I have always had a passion for all different styles of dance," she said. "The sisters had such a specific style that has been great to re-create, but it was also very challenging."

Kerr said she read books and articles and watched movies and YouTube videos to bring to life the "quirky style" of the youngest Andrews sister, Patty, and to focus on the specific style of each song.

David Heimann, director and choreographer for Theo Ubique's musical tribute, channeled his college experiences with ballroom dancing to help re-create the ladies' moves.

"A lot of the music and material that I used in competitions were from the Andrews Sisters," he said. "We were able to find unique qualities of each song and performer to make it unique and interesting for the entire show."

The costumes needed to be as true to the sisters -- and the era -- as the song-and-dance numbers.

"We looked at a lot of images," said Bill Morey, costume designer for "A Musical Tribute to the Andrews Sisters." "We tried to be as faithful to the sisters as possible."

Theo Ubique's show takes place in two distinct time periods.

The first act aims to re-create the shows the sisters did for the troops, with their military-inspired costumes. The second act brings the show to a night club scene, and the elegant costumes reflect that.

"You follow them on a journey through different stages of their lives," said Morey, of Glen Ellyn.

Playing Patty in "Sisters of Swing," Brittany Stock, a St. Charles resident, was surprised by the challenges the women faced as the show delves deeper into their personal lives.

"I was familiar with their music and that intrigued me to audition for the show," she said. "But, a lot went on with the Andrews family that I hadn't realized."

The dream that the women had been living was abruptly halted when their mother and father died within a year of each other. For a while, Patty went on her own. The women reunited, but the group fell apart after LaVerne's death in 1967. In their later years, Patty and Maxene were estranged.

Despite the difficulties, Stock assured that the Fox Valley Rep show captures the spirit of the Andrews Sisters.

"It's a very funny show and it's jam-packed with music," she said. "We really get at the heart of the Andrews Sisters' story."

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