USO Through the Years
Pine Box Theatre Salutes the Troops
by Jeff Tryon
A regular July tradition at The Pine Box Music Theatre will take on special meaning this year.
The performing home of the Good Time Gals and Guys will once again present their salute to America’s armed forces with their annual show Fighting Spirit: USO Through the Years, July 5 through 28; but with the nationwide groundswell of patriotic feeling in the wake of last year’s terrorist attacks, the show will be especially meaningful this year.
Romilda Hamontre, who co-founded the singing and dancing music hall with husband Bob fourteen years ago, said the patriotic program has been fined-tuned a bit in light of recent events.
“It tells the story of the Civil War through Desert Storm,” she said. “But of course, we had to upgrade it this year a little more.”
And even though the star-spangled show is a sure-fire crowd pleaser during a time when patriotism is high, it has always been one of the theatre’s best productions.
“When we opened the USO show, National Geographic named it the number one show in the Midwest,” Mrs. Hamontre said. “It was really a great honor.”The Fighting Spirit: USO Through the Years can be seen Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m. There will be no USO show on July 19 and July 26.
The Pine Box Music Theatre got its unusual name because of where it started out—in a former funeral home in downtown Nashville, Mrs. Hamontre said.
“Fourteen years ago we purchased the Pine Box Theatre which was the former Bond Funeral Home in downtown Nashville,” Mrs. Hamontre said. “That’s where we started and that’s why, of course, it’s called the Pine Box Theatre.”
The theatre was the culmination of a long time musical dream of a permanent home for a musical act that started with a volunteer performance at a nursing home in 1970.
“Those Good Time Gals have been together about 30 years, we actually started back in 1971,” she said. “We literally traveled all over the United States.
“But we always wanted our own place.”Bob and Romilda Hamontre
“Bob had promised me my own theatre a long time ago,” she said. “We had done theater forever. We helped start the Putnam County Playhouse, I think they’re in their 45th season now.”
“We had the Brown County Printing business across the street, so when the building became available, we looked out over the funeral home and he said, ‘Boy, that would make a wonderful theatre!’ That’s how the Pine Box Theatre got started.”
“We added Those Good Time Guys because we have all live music—none of our music is canned. So that was how the troupe got started.”
In February of 2001, the Pine Box moved to its current 400-plus-seat theater at Ski World on State Road 46 East.
“It’s very nice,” she said. “The theatre out here is a beautiful facility. We do have some people who don’t like to drive out here once they get downtown, which is unfortunate. We get a lot of people from the first show of the Little Nashville Opry that come out here.
“Mostly, they like it.”
For one thing, a lot more people can enjoy the shows. But some of the forced intimacy of close quarters is gone.
“At the Pine Box, if we had 150 we were sold out. Now, when we have a 150 here it looks like there’s no one here,” she laughed. “I think, ‘Oh my gosh, where is everybody?’ That was a little difficult to get used to.”
“We like it very much.”
Mrs. Hamontre always knew she wanted to change shows every month, which the theater now does 10 times a year from February’s Valentines show to December’s Christmas-themed program.
The changing programs allow a loyal fan base—there are over 400 season ticket holders—to visit the theatre several times per year.
“Ours are people that come back year after year,” she said.
This season, the Good Time Gals and Guys will reward that loyalty with a special Good Time Review of the most requested songs from the company’s voluminous repertoire.
There will be a performance of the Review this month on Friday, July 26.
“We never have less than 75 songs in a show,” Mrs. Hamontre said, “and they never repeat a song. Usually we have around 80 songs.”
Multiply that by 10 shows and you get some idea of the talents of the performers.
“We write, choreograph, stage and direct all of our shows. We do it all in house. Bob does all the writing, Deanna Demes, one of The Good Time Gals, does all the arranging, I do the choreography and Roger Smith does all of the orchestrations.
“We’re lucky to have a good troupe here,” Mrs. Hamontre said. “They do a super job on all our shows.”
For reservations or information on future shows, phone 1-800-685-9624 or visit <www.PineBoxTheatre.com>.