News Column

Theatre Factory show tells Andrews Sisters' story [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA)]

July 12, 2013


LaVerne, Maxene and Patty Andrews were a sister act with swing back in the day. The popular female vocal group's spirited three- part harmony boosted the morale of U.S. troops overseas during World War II.

Director and choreographer Laura Wurzell says all it will take is a few measures of songs like "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" to bring back memories for some audience members and make memories for others in Theatre Factory's musical production, "Sisters of Swing: The Story of the Andrews Sisters."

The show -- written by Beth Gilleland and Bob Beverage, with musical arrangements by Raymond Bergby -- pays tribute to the sisters who became one of the most successful recording groups in pop history. Its score is jam-packed with more than 20 of their biggest hits, including "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree," "Oh, Johnny," "Alexander's Rag Time Band," "Rum and Coca Cola" and "Apple Blossom Time."

"The reason I was interested in directing and choreographing 'Sisters of Swing' is because it was not a music revue, but a show about the Andrews sisters, with an actual book to it," Wurzell says. "Besides recalling the music of the 1930s and '40s, it also emphasizes the relationship of the sisters and how it changed throughout their lives.

"I think everyone with sisters, or who knows sisters, will find that the Andrews sisters' relationships reflect elements of their own relationships," she says.

Starring as the Andrews Sisters are Jillian Vitko as LaVerne, Alyssa Bruno as Maxene and Erin Asselta as Patty. Wurzell says the trio of performers brings a wealth of talent to the show.

"They are all impeccable musicians, singers, actors and dancers, and their voices have truly blended into an amazing sound," Wurzell says. "I don't think I have ever worked with more talented women, nor three women that rehearse as intensely as I do. This is truly an ensemble experience."

She says the trio has worked hard to learn the large number of songs in the show, besides mastering their three-part harmonies.

"Giving them the rehearsal time they need for the musical numbers, along with the scene work, has been a challenge," Wurzell says. "My entire cast and crew have been completely dedicated to telling this story and bringing a beautiful production to the stage."

Vitko says she welcomed the opportunity to learn about the sisters' personal lives and careers.

"They were an immense talent, and they had a dedication that was unmatched, even at the beginning of their career when they were very young," she says.

Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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