Site-specific theater has gained popularity in recent years, but I never imagined I’d ever see a musical performed aboard the hangar bay of an aircraft carrier.
“Blueprint Specials,” a long-lost series of cute songs and comic sketches created by Broadway professionals and performed by soldiers during World War II, is receiving its first-ever production for the general public at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
It is being produced by the theater company Waterwell as part of the Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival, which is primarily comprised of experimental work.
The original idea behind “Blueprint Specials” was to provide U.S. Army soldiers with the “blueprints” to put on a show themselves and enjoy some feel-good entertainment. Frank Loesser (“Guys and Dolls”) contributed songs and Jose Limon (who later became a leading figure in modern dance) devised the choreography.
Director Tom Ridgely has adapted the original revues into a 95-minute piece that revolves primarily around mythological gods (played by Tony nominees Will Swenson and Laura Osnes) getting involved in the war effort, a hapless soldier named Sad Sack (Quinn Mattfeld) and the initiation of a female army unit.
Based upon the original “blueprints,” this is an impressively elaborate production, with a full-size jazz band and a 34-person cast that includes active and veteran members of the U.S. military.
“Blueprint Specials” is not all that different from the revues that were popular on Broadway in its time. The songs and dialogue may not be especially noteworthy today, but it was based upon a rare pairing of musical theater talent and the armed forces that is unlikely to ever be repeated and deserves to be recognized in such a loving fashion.