All Is Calm
by Peter Rothstein
With Musical Arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach
Directed by Deanna Jent
Mustard Seed Theatre
November 19 2016
The saying that all good things must come to an end is playing out this season at Mustard Seed Theatre, both in theme and in practice. The story of a famous one-time truce during World War I is back for a fourth and final season, with a few modifications and changes to the cast. This is my second time seeing it, after having seen and loved it the first year it was staged. Now on stage for its final run, it’s just as compelling and emotionally stirring as ever.
When I first saw the show (reviewed here), I hadn’t known what to expect, but this year I was prepared. Although there’s a mostly different ensemble this year, it’s still incredibly well-sung, featuring classic folk songs, World War I popular songs, and traditional Christmas carols in English, German, and French. The performers this year are all excellent, featuring Paul Cereghino, Kent Coffel, Steve Isom, Steve Jent, Gregory Lhanon, Gerry Love, Antonio Rodriguez, Luke Steingruby, Kelvin Urday, and Jeff Wright. Telling the story of the the first year of the war up until the unexpected and unauthorized “Christmas Truce”, the cast members tell the stories of real soldiers who were there. Songs range from moving ballads, like the plaintive “Will Ye Go to Flanders?” to the more upbeat camp songs like “Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag” to gloriously sung carols such as “Silent Night” and “The First Noel”. All of the participants are in good voice, blending well to create beautiful harmonies, and featuring excellent solos from Steingruby, Rodriguez, and more.
The set, designed by Kyra Bishop and painted by Laura Skroska, is a little more extensive than I remember it from the first production. It’s a versatile collection of platforms and movable set pieces backed by an expressive backdrop that helps to set the scene and mood, from the lighthearted moments to the more somber and emotional. There’s also excellent atmospheric lighting by Michael Sullivan and realistic costumes by Jane Sullivan. The technical aspects work together well to help transport the audience to the time and place. Kudos as well go to dialect coach Richard Lewis for helping the cast members achieve convincing regional accents from English to Scottish to Irish, to German.
There’s still time left to see this production, but it’s a high demand show and it sells out quickly. If you’ve never seen it before, I recommend checking it out before you miss your chance. If you have seen it before, it’s well worth seeing again. It’s a profound experience, at once educational, moving and intensely memorable. After four years, it’s still a must-see, and must-hear, production.
All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 is being presented by Mustard Seed Theatre at Fontbonne University until December 11, 2016.