When Erinn Dearth created “Letters from Home: Reviving Patriotism” at the suggestion of her father, Pat, a Coast Guard veteran, she had no idea the 1940s style show would touch so many hearts — including her own.
“I just thought it would be a fun way to entertain and an opportunity to perform some great music,” she writes on her website. “I had no idea at the time that this little show would have such a significant impact on my life, but more importantly on the lives of others. Since we started this show, we have had the opportunity to perform for literally thousands of heroes, including many World War II veterans. These incredible men and women are the reason we are free today.”
“I’m a performer,” she elaborated in a telephone interview. “I love to perform. But I don’t believe ‘Letters from Home’ is a performance-first thing. It’s an outlet for honoring veterans.”
Dearth, along with partner Dan Beckmann, will bring their show to the Gulf Theater on Feb. 29.
For Beckmann, joining Dearth in performing “Letters from Home” has been a lesson in perspective.
“It started out as gig to fill space between other gigs, but it has become a lifestyle for me,” he said. “I don’t come from a military background, but performing ‘Letters from Home’ exposed me to a different part of American culture. It changed me as a person.”
The show, Beckmann said, is “an hour and 10 minutes of feel-good time with the audience.” He and Dearth, dance, sing, tell jokes and interact. Together, Dearth and Beckmann take audiences on a trip down memory lane with 1940s-1960s music, singing, tap dancing, comedy, and some other surprises along the way.
When Dearth founded the show 10 years ago, it was filled with the music of the Andrews Sisters, Frank Sinatra and the Big Band music that formed the soundtrack to the World War II era.
“It was my father’s idea,” Dearth said. “We were literally sitting around the dinner table. He said, “You should do a show for veterans. So, we got out the old records of the Andrews Sisters. It started out as an Andrews Sisters tribute.”
Since then, it has evolved to also feature content directed at Vietnam veterans, including the music of Dylan, Creedence and Steppenwolf.
“It seems like a departure” from USO-style entertainment, Beckmann said. “It’s not.”
The show is now performed in theaters, at air shows, cruise ships, schools, patriotic celebrations, military bases, VA hospitals, VFWs, American Legions and many other venues. “Letters from Home” recently completed its 905th performance.
“They touch hearts in so many ways,” said Isaac James, theater manager. “If you are in need of a booster shot of patriotism, or just like to hear good music and watch skillfully choreographed dancing, this is the show for you.”
Tickets are $25 and $30.