The show itself, called Meet the Navy and directed by Louis Silver (a Hollywood producer) and Larry Ceballos (a Broadway choreographer), was premiered for servicemen 2 September at Toronto's Victoria Theatre and opened to the public 4 September. It opened in Ottawa 15 September at the Capitol Theatre (Ottawa). During a year-long national tour, which covered some 10,000 miles by train, Meet the Navy entertained about a half-million Canadians. It travelled in 1944 to Britain, opening 23 October in Glasgow and touring England (11 cities in the provinces), Ireland, and Wales and playing at the Hippodrome in London (1 Feb-7 Apr 1945, including a command performance 28 February). Performances followed in Paris' Théâtre Marigny, the Brussels Music Hall, and Amsterdam's Carré Theatre. Meet the Navy closed 12 September in Oldenburg in occupied Germany. In 1945 the NFB produced the film Meet the Navy on Tour. Though plans for a Broadway run fell through, the show itself was filmed in November in Britain.
Meet the Navy included skits, dance routines, and several songs: 'In Your Little Chapeau,' 'Rockettes and the Wrens,' 'Brothers-in-Arms,' 'Meet the Navy,' and 'Beauty on Duty,' all by R.W. Harwood (words) and P.E. Quinn (music); 'The Boys in the Bellbottom Trousers' by Quinn; 'Shore Leave' by Noel Langley and Henry Sherman (words) and Quinn; and the showstopper (sung by John Pratt) 'You'll Get Used to It', with words by Pratt to music by Freddy Grant. Eric Wild (who conducted the pit orchestra) and Robert Russell Bennett arranged the music.
Leading roles were taken by Pratt, Robert Goodier, Cameron Grant, and Lionel Merton. Other featured performers included Dixie Dean, Ivan Romanoff (who conducted a balalaika orchestra and a chorus in 'Scena Russki'), Carl Tapscott (who did choral arrangements), the bass Oscar Natzke, and the dance team Alan and Blanche Lund. Members of the 25-piece orchestra included the violinists Victor Feldbrill, Bill Richards, and Joseph Sera, the trombonist Ted Elfstrom, and the saxophonist-clarinetist Howard 'Cokie' Campbell.
After the London debut of Meet the Navy, Beverley Baxter wrote in the London Evening Standard: 'Why is this piece so exhilarating, so completely satisfying and, since the first class always touches the emotions, why was it so stirring? Perhaps the answer is that quite outside the professional slickness and the terrific pace of the whole thing, we were seeing the story of Canada unconsciously unfolding itself to our eyes'.
In 1980, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Canadian navy, the Nova Scotia government revived Meet the Navy with several members of the original cast.
Phillips, Ruth. 'The history of the Royal Canadian Navy's World War II show Meet the Navy,' unpublished manuscript (1973)
Southworth, Jean. 'Actor revives his wartime role,' Ottawa Journal, 19 Aug 1980
Links to Other Sites
Mary Bates Burns, 89: Swing singer
An obituary fro Mary Bates Burns, who had a lead singing role in the Second World War musical revue "Meet the Navy." From thestar.com.
Meet the Navy
Peruse this online copy of the program for the Royal Canadian Navy's Second World War musical production "Meet the Navy."
The Memory Project: Meet the Navy
Listen to an interviews with Canadian veteran Blanche Lund who talks about her experiences in the popular show "Meet the Navy," which was developed to entertain Canadian personnel in the Second World War. Also check out related digitized artefacts and memorabilia. From the Historica-Dominion Institute.
The Navy Ashore - The Navy and the Home Front
View a gallery of posters, photos, and other archival material that illustrate the Royal Canadian Navy's efforts on the home front in support of Canadian overseas operations during the Second World War. From the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
"It Made Them Forget About the War For a Minute"
A fascinating article about behind the scenes action in the Canadian Army, Navy and Air Force entertainment units during the Second World War. With many photographs of participants and entertainment venues. From the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies. Note: a very large file.
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