‘Ammunition’: A Musical Take on American Women in the War

Ammunition Rehearsal
Bobby Malley ’20 and Rory K. Wakeford ’20 rehearse as Wallace and Natalie, respectively.
For this year’s annual First-Year Musical, the Class of 2020 showcases “Ammunition: The Musical,” an original show about women working in munitions factories during World War II. The women experience newfound independence and empowerment, but when the war is over and the men return from combat, the women who want to continue working must grapple with pay inequality and the loss of much of the recognition and freedom they had enjoyed. This musical seeks to be more serious and relevant to social issues than previous First-Year Musicals, which have usually been known for their lighthearted tone. The writers chose to focus on contemporary issues of female empowerment through the lens of a musical set in the forties.

Much of the story revolves around the relationships and tensions between the women working at home and the men returning from combat. Natalie, played by Rory K. Wakeford ’20, is a confident, well-respected welder who leads the movement for pay equality when the war is over. Bobby Malley ’20 plays Wallace, a male worker who stayed behind during the war because of a purported injury. “He’s kind of a jerk,” Malley says. “He butts heads with Natalie over her activism. They’re also friends, and it’s complicated. He provides an unusual male perspective on this period in history.”

“Ammunition” is written, composed, directed, produced, and acted in entirely by freshmen who were selected by last year’s First-Year Musical team. The cast and crew includes both students active in theater as well as others with little to no prior experience. The musical provides a perfect entryway into the theater community at Harvard, but it is also certainly a daunting task for the cast and crew. “It’s a challenge. It’s a welcome one, and it’s an amazing one,” says director Eli Troen ’20. “With the cast having to learn maybe 15 songs that were only written three to four weeks ago, and working with line changes and things like that—that’s a lot of stress, and it’s not easy, and I think that has allowed us to have this mutual struggle we’re bonding over, and create a really tight-knit community.”

“Ammunition: The Musical” will be in Agassiz Theater from April 23 to April 30.

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