A Holiday Twist On The “Victory Dolls’” Winning Formula

Last July, I got a chance to chat with a few of the Victory Dolls as well as with the group’s producer Kevin Barrett when putting together this piece exploring their impact. But this past Monday is actually the first time I got to see them in action for their Victory Dolls Holiday Show at the Delray Beach Playhouse.

The musical stylings and aesthetics of the Dolls are most heavily inspired by those of the Andrew Sisters, making their opening medley of some of the girl group’s best known songs a great scene-setter. Throughout the show, renditions of 40s hits like these are interspersed with some informational sequences exploring the war-time context that made this music so meaningful to so many, which also feature projections of photographs to illustrate these asides. 

Though the show thus probably has an added element of nostalgia for anyone old enough to remember the heyday of these old-time ditties or who has some other personal connection with them, you certainly don’t need one to enjoy this musical journey. After all, some of the standards covered have become enough of a part of the canon to ring with familiarity even to the ears of most millenials, and, as you’d likely expect from a holiday show, a few classic Christmas songs were also on Victory Dolls’ winning roster this time around. 

The group features a rotating cast of some of South Florida’s most talented leading ladies, and the three dolls showcased at this performance were Jessie Dez, Laura Yanez, and Molly Shippy. Guided by the musical direction of Michael Ursua, the three delivered an array of impressively intricate harmonies, though each doll also got their chance to shine during at least a few solo songs or verses.  

Pictured from left to right: Jessie Dez, Laura Yanez, and Molly Shippy

Perhaps the most memorable of these was Yanez’s solo rendition of “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered.” Along with lending her rich voice to the famous showtune, Yanez seemed to infuse the standard with all of the depth of feeling the lovelorn song seemed to invite, one of the few times during the show I found myself getting surprisingly emotional. 

 Other numbers, like “Wish Me Luck As You Wave Goodbye” and “When The Lights Go On Again” also struck a chord as they alluded to the struggles Americans faced during the war-time period, be they brave soldiers who shipped off into the unknown or loved ones left waiting for their return. 

Not to say that the show is by any means a downer; there are also plenty of more upbeat numbers like “Hit the Road Jack,” and “Swingin’ On a Star.” The cast also makes the time for some light-hearted banter as well as for historical enumeration, such as when they decide midway through a song about a woman named “Caledonia” that they should instead sing about a man named “Caledony,” or comically imply that a little more than dancing was probably going on between American soldiers and their overseas sweethearts. 

The dolls also perform some simple choreography during their numbers, which struck me as a little awkward at some moments but as a more in-tune complement to the proceedings in others. Some visual variety was also added by a costume change that took place following the show’s  intermission, during which the trio changed out of their army-inspired attire to reemerge in party dresses and Santa Claus hats. For an extra dose of holiday spice, they then traipsed through the audience during their rendition of “Jingle Bell Rock ” as they made their way back onstage. 

But along with offering cheery Christmas segments like these, the second half of the show also built on the first half’s exploration of the intensity of the period, including during a patriotic rendition of “God Bless America” that rang of true triumph. As is their tradition, the dolls also invited any veterans in attendance to stand and be acknowledged by the rest of the audience near the show’s conclusion, presumably creating a powerful moment of catharsis for them and reminding the rest of us of the respect due their sacrifice. 

Pictured from left to right: Jessie Dez, Laura Yanez, and Molly Shippy

So, though today is the last day the dolls will be at the Delray Beach Playhouse for this particular concert, the group will no doubt be back at some point in the upcoming year to give audiences of all generations a chance to turn the jukebox-clock back for a fun-filled waltz through the 1940s. Feel free to check back on the Victory Dolls’ website or to follow them on Facebook or Instagram if you’d like to stay in the know! 

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