Veteran Stories:
Doreen Bennett

Army

  • Army Show Orchestra, February 1943.
    Credit: Picture from Murray Ginsberg's Book "They Loved to Play: Memories of The Golden Age in Canadian Music" (Toronto: eastend books, 1998).

    Doreen Bennett was a dancer in the Army Show.

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"They had very nice lighting. They put the spotlight on the two singers and kind of fading the lights on and off on the dancers. So yeah, it was very nice."

Transcript

One of the costumes we had, we had a very short bright yellow pleated skirt and a yellow bra that, I forget, we had a red bra underneath it. So we had the red showing through. That was a skit where we sang “Doctor, Doctor,” and followed the doctor around the stage. He was supposed to be a little simple, and we followed him around the stage. Then we had the really very lovely one where the two men, the singer and the dancer, they both wore white old style costumes or you know, suits, like they wore in England when King George was around or even before that, I think. The girls, there were four of us, we wore long gowns, each of us had a different colour; and as I say, they were long and they had an A-line skirt with ruffles at the bottom, showing down at the bottom. And low cut neckline, not low like they wear it nowadays, and it had a frill around also; and a big hat with a big brim and it was lacey, and so on too.

So it was really nice. One of the men, as I say, was a tenor and he sang on key. He was just a beautiful singer. The young man was a dancer and he danced with the girls. As we were dancing, he would dance with one and twirl around, and dance with the other. Also, I forgot the soprano singer too sang with the tenor. They sang to each other while we were flitting around with our beautiful gowns. They had very nice lighting. They put the spotlight on the two singers and kind of fading the lights on and off on the dancers. So yeah, it was very nice.

We had one dance that we called, well, it was called a Russian dance and we wore a purple outfit and a short skirt; and that one had long tight sleeves and a so-called Russian hat. We had an accordion play for us for that dance. We enjoyed that one too.

We rehearsed in rehearsal clothes. The clothes were made for us as time went on, so they were new when we went over. As I say, we rehearsed in rehearsal clothes. There were some changes. Over there, they didn’t like the little brassiere for the “Doctor, Doctor” skit. [laughs] So they changed that. But you know, just little things. They added some and took some away.

Another one, I went into two more shows after that one; and on the one show, there was a tightrope walker. I made motions, oh, let me walk, let me walk. So he put me up on the tightrope, well he held my hand and I walked a couple of steps. Well, then I fell off into a soldier’s lap. I wasn’t going to fall on the ground, if I didn’t have a soldier there to fall on his lap, then he would have just lifted me down. But that was funny. They gasped. And, of course, I got up all flustered and rushed off the stage.

One theatre we were in had water dripping through continuously; and it just dripped through and was just like a curtain across the front of the stage. This audience couldn’t see that, but we did and it was freezing. The men stood with our coats along the side and they took our coats while we ran onto the stage, we did our dance, we came off, put our coats on again. Then in the, well, that particular theatre, before we finished there, it was closed. Condemned. So that was a little thing that one remembers.

And the same thing, [another] remembrance about that particular theatre was there were big dressing rooms upstairs that we didn’t need so we were told, you don’t need to go upstairs, you know, just don’t go up those stairs. So one of our girls went up the stairs and she opened the door, and there were two men kneeling on the floor looking down at us dressing and so on. Actually, they were Germans and they were living in the pipes up there. So when the men went up, they couldn’t see them and they said she was crazy. So they were caught about two weeks later.

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