Review | All Is Calm: masterful

The Ensemble in ALL IS CALM. Photo by Dan Norman.

Across a dim stage, out of the (hypoallergenic) mist, a crystal-clear voice rings out, singing the old Scottish tune “Will ye go to Flanders.” The voice takes shape in a young soldier, flanked on either side by a small chorus of men from all walks of life representing the troops of World War One who fought in the trenches on the Western Front. This hauntingly beautiful melody is the opening number in Theater Latté Da’s production of the inspiring All Is Calm.

During the bitter winter of 1914 at the start of World War One, trenches were flooded, rations were sparse, and spirits were low. Still, on December 25th, the same German and Allied soldiers that had been firing back and forth across No Man’s Land laid down their arms and started an unofficial Christmas truce.

This remarkable moment in history is brought to life in All Is Calm, in a production intelligently ditected by Latté Da’s artistic director Peter Rothstein. A musical radio drama that uses letters, poems, journal entries, and official war documents to tell the story of that incredible night when across the trenches, thousands of men rose up and shared in the holiday spirit. There are records of men singing traditional carols in German, French, and English, exchanging gifts, and even playing a rowdy game of football. This truce was never repeated, and the 1914 Christmas Truce is as heartwarming as it painfully punctuated with the harsh realities of war, including taking time to bury the dead and the fact that just days later, shots rang out once again and the brief peace was broken.

All Is Calm was first developed and produced in 2007, in collaboration with director and creator Peter Rothstein, the Cantus Vocal Ensemble, and Theater Latté Da. What is perhaps most remarkable about the current production is the complete lack of musical accompaniment. The collection of carols, patriotic songs, and traditional Scottish, Irish, and French folk songs that are scattered throughout the show are arranged A cappella. Each member of the ensemble blends perfectly together to create otherworldly harmonies that feel as though they’re echoing from the trenches themselves.

There are no weak links in this relatively small cast, with each player putting on multiple hats and juggling different parts. The solos are delivered perfectly, but there are some standouts. Andrew Hey’s incredible vocal stylings kick off the show as he leads the ensemble in “Will Ye Go To Flanders.” Evan Tyler Wilson has been part of three touring productions of All is Calm, and his rendition of “Minuit Chretiens” (O Holy Night) is mesmerizing. Benjamin Dutcher has been performing in All is Calm since 2015, and it’s Dutcher that starts “Stile Nacht” (Silent Night). All is Calm features the additional phenomenal talents of Sasha Andreev, Paul R. Coate, Ben Johnson, Riley McNutt, Rodolfo Nieto, James Ramlet, and Andrew Wilkowske.

All is Calm has played to wide acclaim across the country is something of a tradition here in the Twin Cities. Even if you’ve seen the show before, this production is well worth your time. Peter Rothstein ends his program notes by hoping that All is Calm does justice the thousands of men that changed history in December, 1914. While the production gives voice to generations long gone, it’s up to us, the audience, to ensure that those voices do not fall on empty theater seats.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *