World War II is often referred to as the “last Good War” in that it was a clear-cut battle between the forces of evil – the Axis Powers – and the forces of good – the Allied Powers, including Canada. It was a moral crusade on the part of the world’s major democracies and their allies against the totalitarian states that had emerged in the 1920s and 1930s. And there was never any doubt, even in its darkest days that the Allies would be victorious.
It’s against this backdrop that Peter Colley’s play You’ll Get Used To it! The War Story – now playing at the Huron Country Playhouse II until July 13 – is set.
First commissioned by London’s Grand Theatre in the 1970s when Colley was its playwright-in-residence, the musical about Canada’s involvement in World War II has been produced continuously across the nation ever since.
The production now onstage at Huron Country Playhouse II is told through the eyes of six Canadian soldiers and the women in their lives through song, humour and drama beginning with their enlistment, boot-camp training, marching endlessly in Britain, carousing with English girls, the failed Dieppe raid, the invasion of Sicily and Italy and the horror of the 1944 D-Day Invasion. It ends with Victory in Europe Day in May 1945.
Unfortunately, only one of the six soldiers returns alive to Canada.
No doubt about it, this Alex Mustakas directed play is an ensemble effort. The eight men and women onstage, including the Music Director/Pianist Jim Hodgkinson, are all at the top of their games. Great voices, great dance moves and convincing dramatic chops.
A special shout-out goes to Aaron Walpole, St. Thomas’s favourite son, for his convincing portrayal of Sarge, the squad’s gruff sergeant with a heart of gold.
Whether singing in duets, small groups or solo, the ensemble cast knocks it out of the park with WWII standards like The White Cliffs of Dover, We’ll Meet Again, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, I’ll Be Seeing You, and many others.
The set is simple, but very functional, and the on-screen archival WWII film clips and photographs add a perfect touch of authenticity to the live action onstage.
The score had the audience singing along and clapping their hands throughout the play.
You’ll Get Used to It! The War Story is a reminder of what the war meant to the people who fought it and the people who loved them.
Rick Young, June 28, 2019