“All Hands on Deck:” WWII Musical a High Energy Affair

All Hands on Deck! a new 1940s show, created by writer-choreographer Jody Madaras, features over 40 show tunes tied into a smooth storyline riddled with humor. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I entered the small doors of Mister Theater, but I was pleasantly surprised. The show, produced by Portland Musical Theater Company and running through Nov. 12th, opens PMTC’s second “season of premieres.”

The stage lights came up, revealing World War II propaganda posters and American flags. A voiceover described the setting, the Fourth of July, 1942, illuminating the struggle of a world at war, an American theater company selling war bonds in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and the early days of United States involvement in the war.

At this point I was convinced I was about to delve into the dreary world of WWII. But even in the context of our current situation and the havoc of WWII, the play was uplifting, patriotic and full of eager singers who showcased their talent to the packed house.

The 42 show tunes are split between four singing actors. Ted Crosley, played by Rich Cohn-Lee, reminded me of a car salesman. He led the ensemble, with their songs and charms, across the U.S. to gain national support for the troops in WWII. In the second act, when the group can’t make it to San Francisco, they have to stay in Portland for their radio broadcast. Although Crosley wasn’t too pleased to stay in Portland, declaring Seattle much better, he still sang and supported his fellow singers. The other singers lifted him up, and golden ’40s style microphones were brought onto the stage.

Mad props to Deanna Maio, a lead singer and the show’s director. She played Betty Blake, sporting black curls and a pep in her step. Blake was feisty, and Maio’s musical talent matched her personality. Maio, while also rocking a killer voice and on point acting skills, is the founder and executive director of the Portland Musical Theater Company.

John Hanley, played by Aidan Nolan, belted his notes with charisma, using his tall stature to enchant the audience. Hanley and Crosley interacted with the ladies and with each other, exchanging witty banter and catchy melodies.

Daisy Maxwell, played by Ashley Moore, has an angelic voice. She was able to hit notes I didn’t even know existed. She constantly had a smile on her face and sported a blond “omelet fold updo” and sassy red lipstick.

The actors interacted with the audience as if we were in a studio, encouraging us to clap, cheer, and connect with the singers and their banter. Even though the singers performed their own songs, they still sang together with choreographed dances, and their pitches and harmony fell in place.

This show was captivating and highly entertaining. I find it hard to believe how all of them were able to memorize the lyrics, melody, lines, and choreography. The final show is Nov. 12 at 2 p.m., so you’d better go see it while you have the chance, because they need All Hands on Deck!