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BWW Review: ALL IS CALM: THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE OF 1914 at Theatre Latte Da

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Runs now through January 2, 2022

BWW Review: ALL IS CALM: THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE OF 1914 at Theatre Latte Da

Theatre Latte Da's encore production of their award-winning show All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914, is an absolutely stunning piece of art. Sung completely acapella by eleven actors with gorgeous tone and pitch-perfect harmony, this show tells the story of the Christmas Truce that occurred in the first year of World War I (and sadly, never again), where thousands of soldiers on both sides put down their guns for an all-too brief period to come together as comrades and celebrate the holiday with exchanges of gifts, food and music. Eventually, they were ordered to return to their trenches and re-start a war many did not believe in, that would drag on for another four years.

The show uses music of the time period, as well as text taken from a wide range of historical sources (including letters, poetry, interviews, journals and even gravestones) to flesh out the essence of the story. At a brisk 65 minutes with no intermission, the show moves swiftly with almost constant singing, often underneath the recitations of soldier's experiences. Thirty-five songs make up the bulk of the show, and they are all beautifully sung by the cast. Each cast member is both a talented actor and singer, but the musicality of David Darrow, Nicholas Davis, Benjamin Dutcher and Evan Tyler Wilson were especially thrilling to hear. Midway through the show, the arrangement of Stille Nacht (Silent Night) was incredibly moving (and for anyone who knows choral music, incredibly difficult). Indeed, it was amazing to witness the vocal artistry of these men. One song sung acapella is hard enough - to sing thirty-five songs with very few opportunities to reset pitch (hidden pitch pipes and tuning forks are used without notice by the audience) is quite astounding. The vocal arrangements of Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach are simply stunning. A cast album of this show would be a best-seller; the songs want to be listened to again and again.

The sparse set is utilized well through writer and director Peter Rothstein's staging. The opening of the show is particularly interesting, as Lighting Designer Marcus Dilliard brings each character onstage into a dimly lit spotlight that throws them into shadow, giving each an almost other-worldly aura. As they sing the opening number, "Will Ye Go to Flanders?", it feels as if we are looking at ghosts of past soldiers. Rothstein moves the actors around the stage with purpose, as they take on different personas (English, Scottish, French and German, with well-done accents to match) to tell the story. When the cast sang "Auld Lang Syne", you could hear a pin drop in the theater as the audience held their breath, waiting for what was to happen next. A very well-done moment in a show full of well-done moments.

The sadness of All is Calm is that we know the truce did not last, and that many of these young men lost their lives after the truce ended - and yet, the show does not feel depressing or heavy. In fact, it is quite the opposite. You come away from the show with a sense of exhilaration, knowing that even during wartime, there can be hope. The universal language of music brought these men together, and showed them how similar, not different, they really were. In today's troubled times, it's a lovely reminder that we have more in common than we think.


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