​1940s USA Christmas Show on the JRT Stage

Published 4:36 pm Wednesday, November 29, 2023

By Pam Johnson
The Jonesborough Repertory Theatre is thrilled to present the 1940s USA Christmas Show, December 8-17. This annual community-favorite is typically done in the summer, but this season, it’s the Christmas feature.

The 1940s USA Show (formerly called the 1940s USO Show) is the brainchild of JRT’s artistic director, Jennifer Ross-Bernhardt, who was approached almost three decades ago about creating a patriotic show for that year’s Jonesborough Days. At that time – though she wasn’t yet the artistic director – she was known for her theatre and music involvement, as well as her passion for both the military and the 1940s era.

Ross-Bernhardt was greatly influenced by her upbringing. Not only was her father a marine, but he was a singer who loved the old songs. She grew up listening to Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby, and Peggy Lee. Their music resonated with her. She knew this was the kind of music she wanted in her show, thus the 1940s USO Show was born.

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The show has always been presented as a live radio show by “WJRT Jonesborough.” Ross-Bernhardt writes comical commercials for products from the 40s and tracks down music and patriotic tunes from that era. Each year the show is unique, with different songs, skits, and dances. The only song which is consistent season after season is the popular and sentimental “Military Medley,” honoring each branch of service.

Over the years, the cast has grown from three band members to eight, and from 12 singers/dancers to sometimes as many as 32, but the purpose remains unchanged: to remind our audiences of the patriotism and unity of America in the 1940s. As Ross-Bernhardt stated, “The impact this music can make – how it can help people, how it can lift spirits – is why we do what we do.”

This show is written and directed by Jennifer Ross-Bernhardt, assistant directed by Krista Wharton, choreographed by Jessica Shelton, and stage managed by Sheila Laughlin. The band is directed by Lucas Schmidt, and the music is arranged by Sloan Hill. Sponsors are Dan and Donna Cobb, Denny Dentistry, Sonia King, McLeod Organics, Dan and Pamela Pope, and Ashley and Judy Whitehurst.

The cast includes Olivia Asbury, Josh Baldwin, Matthew Bruno, Aubrey Christie, Suzanne Cook, Kelsey Cullop, Alyssa Curtis, Janette Gaines, Shawn Hale, Michael Hickie, Mika Hoilman, Cortlyn Holdren, Emush Lamb, Bennett Little, Mandy Mangiacotti, Tabatha Oliver, Joseph Rogers, Jennifer Ross-Bernhardt, Lucas Schmidt, Jessica Shelton, Olivia Smith, Sharon Squibb, Emma Tate, Corey Tickles, Carlos Candelas Torres, and Krista Wharton.

Band members are Howie Alexander, Dan Cobb, Sloan Hill, Stacia Howard, Shane Ladd, Brett McCluskey, Joy Nagy, Andrew Oliver, and Dr. Gregg Perry.

Shows run Thursdays through Sundays, December 8-17. Tickets are $18 general admission, $16 for students and seniors.There is also a special group rate for parties of 15 or more. To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at 423-753-1010 or go online to jonesboroughtheatre.com.