A bit of history has landed on the shores of Dumbo!
An all-ages military musical uses songs, dance, and puppetry to bring to life a tragic, almost-forgotten piece of World War II history. “946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips” opening at St. Ann’s Warehouse on March 16, delves into the ill-fated rehearsals for D-Day that brought battalions of African-American soldiers to a tiny town on the shore of England. The British company behind the show believes that its testament to the human spirit will have extra resonance for a modern American audience, said its artistic director.
“It’s this covered-up history of these mainly black GIs coming to this rural community with all the themes of diversity and inclusivity that are so relevant to now,” said Mike Shepherd, who also acts in the play. “We were especially keen on bringing this to the U.S. because those black GIs were airbrushed out of American history.”
The play dives into the buried events of “Operation Tiger” on April 28, 1944 — a massive dress rehearsal for the invasion of Normandy that was intended to feel, look, and sound like the real thing. But the rehearsal turned into one of the war’s biggest fiascoes, when German boats spotted the troop ships and attacked, killing 946 men during the massive simulation.
But the play, based on a children’s book of the same name, uses an unusual frame for the story, telling it through the eyes of a young girl and a black soldier on a quest to find her cat during the bungled maneuvers.
“It’s this adult world and war told through the perspective of a little girl and her cat, so it’s relatable for kids,” said Shepherd.
For the exercise, the village of Slapton was transformed into a war zone, with thousands of locals ordered to leave, and unsure if they were fleeing a real invasion.
In the play, a young girl named Lily realizes her cat Tips was left behind during the evacuation, and she sets out with the help of an American solider named Adolphus to rescue her beloved feline from behind the simulated battlefront.
The show uses original songs and 1940s tunes to tell their story, enhanced by a vibrant cast of characters and puppets, portraying soldiers, local figures, and a slew of cats, chicken, and sheep. The narrative fuses Lily and Adolphus’ journey with the unfolding drama of Operation Tiger to create a touching tale that all ages can get something out of, said Shepherd.
“There’s delight and scariness for children and delight and poignancy for adults,” he said. “We’ve always done shows for everyone. We don’t make children’s shows, we make a show everyone can enjoy. It’s just a bloody good night out.”
“946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips” at St. Ann’s Warehouse [45 Water St. between Old Dock and New Dock streets in Dumbo, (718) 254–8779, www.stann
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