CEDARVILLE — It’s Brooklyn in 1942, and at the local USO club things are hopping, as a group of servicemen get ready to ship out. And with that group of servicemen and women are two items folks were all too familiar with: the ubiquitous graffiti “Kilroy was here” and the possibility the enemy was among them.
On April 10 and 12 at 7 p.m., Cedarville Middle School will present the spring musical “Kilroy Was Here” at the Cedarville school stage, 194 Walnut Street.
Ships leaving the nearby Navy yard are being sunk by enemy U-boats. Allied intelligence suspects the club is unknowingly harboring Axis spies.
Enter Private Joe Kilroy, a young soldier who draws a curious cartoon face everywhere he goes (and is this causing trouble). He’s the only one who knows where the next Allied convoy will converge. The enemy agents are stopping at nothing to learn his secret.
The action builds to an exciting finale during a wild radio broadcast. The score includes such hits as “Don’t Say No To The U.S.O.,” “Slap That Jukebox,” “Jitterbug Saturday Night,” and “Rat-a-tat-tat That Rivet,” with classic Andrews Sisters-style harmony.
Math teacher Nan Conard is directing the play that features a cast of about 30 students.
“It’s a history lesson, and it’s meant to be patriotic, ” she said.
The play puts a face to the social studies lesson and phrases like “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without,” she said.
Megan Wambold, 13, portrays a messenger who delivers telegrams, often containing bad news, to servicemen’s wives.
“They didn’t have as much stuff as we do now,” she said.
Added Conrad: “These kids didn’t know what a victory garden was. They’ve never had to turn in an empty toothpaste tube in order to get another.”
“I learned a lot,” said Ryan Allex, 12, who plays Leo Pickford. “I didn’t know Kilroy was a real thing.”
The phrase ‘Kilroy was here’ may have originated through United States servicemen, who would draw the doodle and the text “Kilroy was here” on the walls and other places they were stationed, encamped, or visited.
Conard said she has had a lot of help putting on the show.
While some costumes have come from the school’s drama department, some have also been borrowed from Urbana and Dayton Christian high schools, as well as Costume King, a costume shop in Jamestown.
She’s also had lots of help from parents, who have volunteered to build sets, sew costumes and provide food for marathon rehearsals.
Local Cedarville University students and graduates also volunteered their time to teach the cast swing dancing.
“This is the biggest cast I’ve had,” Conard said. “They’ve been the best kids. They’ve taken it seriously and not goofed around.”
The play has special meaning for Conard, whose father was 12-years-old, the son of an Army officer stationed at Hickam Field at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese bombed the Navy base there on Dec. 7, 1941.
“He’s 84 now,” Conard said. “I have his diary and in his 12-year-old handwriting, he wrote how the bombing ruined Christmas.”
Conard said the cast would love to see veterans and currently serving military personnel in the audience.
Tickets are $6 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and students (12th grade and under).