Music & lyrics by Ben Pasek & Justin Paul.
Book by Peter Duchan.
Based on the Warner Bros film screenplay by Bob Comfort.
Southwark Playhouse, the Little, 77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD to 31 August 2019.
Tues – Sat 7pm. Mat Tues & Sat 3pm. Sun 2pm & 5pm.
Runs 1 hr 50 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: William Russell 23 August.
Performed with great energy and skill, although from time to time some of the cast sing flat, Dogfight is another jewel in the crown for the British Theatre Academy. Based on the Warner Brothers film it is set in San Francisco in November 1963 and follows the adventures of three young GIs – Birdlace, Boland and Bernstein – about to leave for Vietnam. They call themselves the three Bs and embark on what is apparently a tradition – a night of drink and dames in which they compete to collect the ugliest girl they can find. Eddie Birdlace collects Rose, a shy young waitress, and rap, the virginal nerd played by Matthew Michaels, doesn’t get anybody but loses his virginity to a tart in the sleazy club in which they all end up. In other words – On the Town it ain’t.
The show has been directed Dean Johnson with imagination – it is done on an apron stage with the orchestra at the rear of the performers – and choreographer George Lyons has devised a series of impressive dance routines which carry the plot along at speed. Stephen Lewis-Johnston delivers a splendidly stubborn, thick but not insensitive Eddie and Claire Keenan a delightful Rose who, of course, is anything but plain. In the traditional way of all musicals she wears spectacles to show she is not pretty.
Dogfight is a bitter sweet rites of passage tale as the three young men learn something about life, about what is acceptable behaviour all recalled some years later when Eddie returns to San Francisco from Vietnam having left for war after spending the night with Rose. It is very much an ensemble evening and given that the cast is not miked the lyrics come across with commendable clarity. In other words the Academy’s students have been taught to sing without a mike, which is quite different thing than singing relying on the amplification to get across to the audience. The score is not particularly memorable, but it rises to all the demands imposed by Peter Duchan’s book and is well performed by a small orchestra under Leo Munby. If the second cast – they perform it seems alternate nights – is as good as the one I saw all the more reason to classify this production of Dogfight as “one to collect” – if you can.
Eddie: Stephen Lewis-Johnston.
Rose: Claire Keenan.
Bernstein: Matthew Michaels.
Marcy: Charlotte Coles.
Boland: Joe Munn.
Alice: Sadie Hurst.
Fector: Ben Walton.
Suzette: Eleanor Jarvie.
Stevens: Daniel Woolford.
Ruth Two Bears: Jada Marie Campbell.
Gibbs: Ewan Hawkins.
Mindy: Katie Upson.
Lounge Singer/Drag Queen/Pete: Evan Blanque.
Mama: Courtney Fannon.
Director: Dean Johnson.
Musical Directr: Leo Mumby.
Choreographer: George Lyons.
Lighting Designer: Andrew Exeter.
Set Designed by Dean Johnson & Andrew Exeter.
Production photographs: Darren Bell.