The Phoenix Theatre Company Presents
THE HELLO GIRLS
Text Courtesy of Phoenix Theatre Company
Images by Reg Madison Photography
This Historical New Musical Tells the
Unsung Story of World War I Heroines
Above: The Phoenix Theatre Company opens 2022 with the musical, The Hello Girls.
The first show of 2022 at The Phoenix Theatre Company is sure to capture the hearts of the audience and inspire an appreciation for history told through musical theatre. The Hello Girls, making its west coast premiere, is a jazzy new musical that chronicles the story of the first women to join the U.S. Armed Forces during World War I as switchboard operators. The musical runs through Sunday, January 30.
Based on a true story, The Hello Girls is a modern retelling of a critical part of history in the struggle for women’s rights. Serving as bilingual telephone operators helping turn the tide in World War I, these brave and inspiring women had to fight to make their way to the front lines and struggled to gain the respect of their peers and the nation. After the war, they fought a decades-long battle for equality and recognition, paving the way for future generations to fight for equal representation. While they were officially the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit, they were typically known as “The Hello Girls.”
Above: Left to right; Rosemarie Chandler as Grace Banker and Gabrielle Smith as Suzanne Prevot.
“This show is an opportunity to tell a slice of history that had a significant impact on women’s rights in our country, but isn’t very well known,” said Cara Reichel, director and co-creator. “The characters depict real life military heroines who disrupted the status quo during the early 20th-century and helped pivot the first world war’s outcome.”
The Hello Girls musical premiered at New York City’s Prospect Theater Company in 2018 in celebration of the centennial of these groundbreaking female members of a unit set up in 1917.
“Thousands of women applied to be part of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, but only 450 were officially trained to do the job, and just 233 actually served abroad,” added Reichel. “Sadly, the Hello Girls were refused veterans’ benefits granted to male soldiers, under the guise that the women were merely ‘contracted’ civilians rather than enlisted military personnel.”
Above, left: Rosemarie Chandler as Grace Banker. Right: Gabrielle Smith as Suzanne Prevot.
While The Hello Girls musical is fictionalized, the show is based on historical information and drew inspiration from the 2017 book, The Hello Girls, by Elizabeth Cobbs. With music and lyrics by Peter Mills, book by Mills and Reichel and directed by Reichel, The Hello Girls received three Drama Desk Award nominations: Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Music and Outstanding Lyrics.
The Phoenix Theatre Company production features Rosemarie Chandler as Grace Banker; Gabrielle Smith as Suzanne Prevot; Michelle Chin as Helen Hill; Carmiña Garey as Louise LeBreton; Bonnie Beus Romney as Bertha Hunt; Kevin Robert White as Lt. Ernest Wessen; Scott Wakefield as General Pershing; Alex Crossland as Pvt. Eugene Matterson; Keiji Ishiguri as Pvt. Dempsey; and Teddy Ladley as Captain Joseph Riser. The 1900s era costumes for the show were painstakingly created by the theatre’s costume designer, Cari Sue Smith, to pay homage to the era. Additionally, many of the performers play musical instruments on stage.