Military Heritage Museum to host USO Show

Actor Bill Johnson calls portraying comedian Bob Hope a privilege. The Las Vegas-based Johnson will be performing as Hope during the Military Heritage Museum’s USO Show as part of its membership drive.

The Military Heritage Museum has taken a clip from the nostalgia library to serve as the theme of its first member drive in its new incarnation as a Charlotte County attraction.

The museum will present a USO Show featuring performers paying tribute to Bob Hope and the Andrews Sisters beginning at 5:30 p.m. April 13 at the museum’s new location at the IMPAC building, 900 W. Marion Ave., Punta Gorda. It’s just down the street from the museum’s current location at Fishermen’s Village.

The show will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50.

“We are actively recruiting new members, and we wanted to preview what a member experience will be like at the new museum,” said Gary Butler, its executive director. “We’ll be offering a hands-on tour of the museum.”

That means those who attend will have an opportunity to try out the museum’s new flight simulators, drink in the atmosphere or the War Room, and, of course, enjoy a show in the 244-seat theater.

Perhaps no entertainer in the country’s history personifies USO shows more so than Bob Hope. Over the course of his long career, the late comedian entertained active duty American military personnel in 57 USO tours between 1941 and 1991.

He will be portrayed by Las Vegas-based Bill Johnson, a veteran character actor. Johnson has performed his tribute across the U.S. and the South Pacific. He calls it a privilege.

Bradenton’s Bonnie Gray will lead Annie Ledig-Jensen and Melissa Knowles in the Andrews Sisters tribute performance. The Andrews sisters’ close harmony became part of the musical backdrop provided by swing and boogie-woogie. They were known during World War II as “America’s Wartime Sweethearts.”

“Everything in the museum has been designed to showcase military heritage,” Butler said. “So, when we looked at what to do in the theater, a USO show was a natural fit.”

The event also will include a reception in the P-51 Club, a preview tour of the galleries, and catered hors d’oeurves.

“The USO Show just fits the mission of the museum so well,” Butler said. “We want to tell stories of our military heritage, and here’s one we can tell through a live performance. It will be a fun evening.”

The gala is limited to the first 225 who register. Call 941-575-9002 or go to www.freedomisntfree.org.

The museum will hold a ribbon-cutting April 15 and officially open its doors May 16.

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