After months of work, L.D. Bell choir's ready to go back in time

HURST -- Ladies, break out the ringlets and red lipstick. Guys, get out your do-rags.

L.D. Bell High School's show choir is putting on a 1940s-style USO song-and-dance act that's apt to knock your socks off.

The two-night performance kicks off at 7 tonight at the school auditorium.

Why go?

"C'mon, it's the swing era. Who doesn't like swing?" said Bell senior Ahseanté Hicks, 17.

The performance will pay tribute to the nation's armed forces as part of a tradition that began in 1941, when United Service Organizations recruited top talent to bring laughter and support to soldiers. Bell's 12-member elite show choir will offer songs and skits made famous by great performers like Abbott & Costello, Bob Hope, Danny Kaye, Marilyn Monroe and others.

"It feels great just to see people smile," said Allyn Coleman, 17, a junior who will put on a spoof in a grass skirt.

A trio of Bell trumpet players will blare Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, and choir members will sing songs like the Fats Waller standard Ain't Misbehavin' and Carol Channing's Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend. Skits made famous by William "Bud" Abbott and Lou Costello will come to life onstage.

"These kids can do pretty amazing things," said Bell choral director Jo Ann Antinone. "These kids are now old enough to be self-driven and to make things happen."

Students must audition for the choir. Among the top students it showcases are gymnasts, some of Bell's academic powerhouses and key members of the prestigious Blue Raider Band.

Once students earn a spot, the rigorous work begins. In August, they begin to learn their songs and dances. Until showtime in late February, students practice during the week and on Saturdays. During their school year, they spend two class periods each day preparing for the big show.

"They have to learn really fast to sing their parts well and incorporate dance as well," Antinone said.

Students also have to be flexible and adapt to different characters and styles. David Seil, 16, a junior, began this year as a tenor and now sings bass. "I love to perform and sing," Seil said. "You just get your prop and go."

YAMIL BERARD, 817-390-7705