A hundred years after soldiers briefly laid down their arms at Christmastime during World War I, the Modern Theater Coeur d’Alene brings to the stage “All is Calm,” a musical representation of that incredible time in history.
Director Abbey Crawford has assembled a talented all-male cast of singers for this poignant epistolary tale. The mix of songs, all sung a cappella, range from war tunes like “Keep the Home Fires Burning” to holiday carols in other languages, such as “O Tannenbaum” in German and “O Holy Night” in French.
“Calm” is a showcase for this strong ensemble cast of singers who blend well. The songs are punctuated by snippets of accounts by World War I soldiers on both sides of the conflict, which the performers recite in each soldier’s accent. From a brigadier general in the British army to a private in the German military, each man has his say, in poetic and sometimes humorous terms.
“I wish that things men do below were known to God above,” says Patrick MacGill of the London Irish Rifles (Terrance MacMullan). Such statements are placed at strategic moments in the story, adding poignancy and transcending time.
The show’s strongest number is its rendition of “Silent Night,” in which the singers solemnly repeat the line “all is calm” in a measured and powerful manner, like a haunting drumbeat.
Written by Peter Rothstein, “All is Calm” features arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach.
The set, designed by George Green, is an abstract representation of a World War I trench, with wooden platforms and supports at odd angles in somber tones.
Overall, the simplicity of the backdrop and costumes and lack of orchestra serve to boost the impact of the voices, and remind us of how one man’s singing can lead to peace – if only for a short time.