Hello Girls Musical Brings History Alive For Toledo Christian Schools Students

Published: 12 June 2024

By Jim Pinkelman
Special to the Doughboy Foundation website

Cast, crew, and family members of the Toledo Christian Schools production of "Hello Girls: The Musical" at the Ohio school in early 2024 traveled to Washington, DC to see Prospect Theater Company's original cast perform the same musical for the Doughboy Foundation at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on May 7.

Toledo Christian Schools is a small private school in Northwest Ohio, where I teach math and bible studies, and am the theatre director of the school’s growing and flourishing theatre program. In spring of 2023, I began the usual search for the school’s spring musical for the next year. Because there are typically more girls than boys in the program, my search included shows with more girls than boys.

I came across the music for “The Hello Girls” and immediately fell in love with the musical. The story set in actual history was something I thought the students could learn from. The fact that the music was incredible sold me on the show. So the journey began.

Auditions were held in January of 2024 and although the cast was a bit uncertain at first, once they started the music rehearsals they, too fell in love with the show. The music is not easy, but the cast rose to the challenge.

As any theatre director does, I constantly listened to the music. It soon became stuck my his head. The opening scene with “Answer the Call” is so moving; not just in context of World War I, but also as a call to us today. Not only to military service but a call in our daily lives to rise up and do our part to make society a better place. Each song continues to move the listener from joy, inspiration, passion, tears, and finally motivation.

Scenes from the Toledo Christian Schools production of “The Hello Girls: The Musical” in March 2024. At lower left, the Full Cast is pictured: Front row, left to right: Jocelyn Castor, Lydia Pirolli, Elisabeth Landskroener, Rylie Taylor, Daniela Knleimola, Sophia Parish, Madison Taylor, Charlotte Flack, Lucy Winkler; Second row, left to right: Jacob Meiers, Mae Reynolds, Addison Smith, Zoe Newsome, Abigaile Patterson, Addison Greenwalt; Third row, left to right: Jonah Turner, Brayden Beck, Bryson Quinn, Will Meiers; Fourth row, left to right: Jason O’Neil, Sam Patterson; Back row, left to right: Jon Baskey, Eli Smith.

Our show went off wonderfully. Then in early March of 2024, the cast found out that the show was being produced professionally at the Kennedy Center in May by the Doughboy Foundation. A few of the cast, along with the director and choreographer, decided to make the trip from Toledo to Washington, D.C. When all was said and done, there were 26 students and adults who made the trip to DC to see that show. They had the experience of a lifetime.

Our choreographer, Julie O’Connell, made contact with the choreographer of the show, and she, the director, and the writers of the show came and met with the school group before the show. The high school cast was astounded. Not only did the group have front row seats, but as the show started, the student actors were on the edge of their seats the whole show. To see their counterparts on stage of the show they have just performed a little over a month before was priceless.

It only got better from there. Members of the Doughboy Foundation were there, and were astounded that the group made the trip to see the show. The granddaughter of Grace Banker was in attendance,  and Daniela Kleimola, the student who portrayed Grace Banker in our production, was able to meet her.

Toledo Christian Schools student Daniela Kleimola, who played the character of Hello Girl Chief Operator Grace Banker in the school’s production of the play, met actress Ellie Fishman (left), who portrayed Banker in the Kennedy Center performance, as well as being introduced to Banker’s granddaughter, Carolyn Timbe (right).

After being shooed out of the theatre (because no one wanted to leave) the group met Ben Davis, the actor playing General Pershing, in the lobby, and he talked with the cast for at least half an hour. Then the most outstanding thing happened: the rest of the cast trickled out, one by one. As a veteran theatre goer, I that knew patrons can get a glimpse of actors as they come out the stage door. However, this was something special.

Each one of these actors stopped and took the time with each of their student counterparts to take pictures and talk with them. They were so kind and appreciative toward all of the students, parents, and teachers.

Several Toledo Christian Schools student actors meet their performance counterparts in the Prospect Theatre Company’s original cast after the Doughboy Foundation presented “The Hello Girls” musical at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC on May 7. Top Left: student Rylie Taylor (right) meets Lisa Helmi Johanson; both played Suzanne Prevot. Lower left: student Elisabeth Landskroener (right) meeting Chanel Kharimkhani; both played Helen Hill. Center left: student John Baskey (left) meeting Ben Davis; both played General Pershing. Top, second from right: student Eli Smith (left) meets Arlo Hill; both played Lieutenant Riser. Top right: student Sophia Parish (left) meeting Senna Prasatthong; both played Louise LeBreton. Bottom, second from right: student Madison Taylor (right) meeting Lili Thomas; both played Bertha Hunt. Lower right: student Bryson Quinn (left) meeting Andrew Mayer; both played Pvt. Matterson.

This experience not only with the professional show and cast, but also with being a part of the show themselves, will be a memory that will last a lifetime.

This show and the story of The Hello Girls needs to be told. Heroes are everywhere and the stories they tell are an inspiration to all of us.

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