Victoria Reed knows close isn’t good enough when it comes to a show at the National World War II Museum. Not when you’re taking an audience into a past many of them actually experienced.
“You can’t fool these men and women,” said Reed, director of entertainment at the museum’s dinner theater, the Stage Door Canteen. “If something is wrong with a uniform, they’ll see it. If something is wrong with a song, they’ll hear it.”
That concern and care will be on display again Friday, June 13, as The Rat Pack Now begins its three-week run at the museum’s theatrical venue. It is the fourth year of the show’s presentation, and it remains one of The Canteen’s most popular bookings.
An homage to the great crooners of post-war America, the show features certain crowd pleasers like “The Best Is Yet To Come” and “Luck Be a Lady.” It resembles a classic evening at the Sands Casino with Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. giving, taking and singing.
For Reed, the show is only a piece in a larger plan.
Hailing originally from Massachusetts, Reed has used her five years at the theatrical helm to fine-tune her ear to the desires of the museum’s patrons. This has resulted in polished, high-quality entertainment designed to appeal to the large crowds that flock to the museum each year.
Speaking directly to audiences as they exit the shows and combing through comment cards on a regular basis, Reed stays a step ahead in programming shows. Future attendees get what they want, and the venue fulfills its mission of recapturing the energy of the USO shows that gave so many Americans respite in a time of great anxiety. It is exactly this method that led to originally booking the Rat Pack Now.
“Over and over again, comment cards said ‘Sinatra.’ Our demographic is shifting with more requests coming from baby boomers. This music appeals to both them and the older generation,” Reed said.
While much of the music is not directly from wartime, the songs were the soundtrack for the leisure time of the men and women who came home to enjoy Eisenhower’s America.
Reed began looking at a number of Rat Pack tributes before finally finding producer/performer Art Poco’s Rat Pack Now. The selection resulted in one the Canteen’s most successful relationships.
“I love these guys. Because they love their audiences. After each show, cocktails in hand, they go into the lobby and greet our guests. It is part of the show.”
Reed has big programming plans for the theater’s line-up in the coming year and beyond.
Another incarnation of the ever-popular Victory Belles takes the stage in the fall and will celebrate the American love affair with The Andrews Sisters.
A production of Ted Swindley’s “Always ... Patsy Cline,” detailing the life and songs of the country music legend, is in the works for next season, and the ubiquitous Ricky Graham makes his debut at the museum with a murder mystery that he and collaborator Sean Patterson have created specifically for the Stage Door Canteen.
Reed is particularly excited about an original musical project scheduled for 2016 that will tell the story of Andrew Higgins, the creator of the landing craft so responsible for the success of the Normandy invasion.
“It is a story that needs to be told. I am still asked why this museum is in New Orleans. And many people still don’t know those ships were built here.”
Two years may seem a long time to wait for that production, but, Reed said, “We need to make sure we get the history right.”