Durham Assembly Rooms Theatre
Until Saturday 2nd September 2017.
Music & Lyrics: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Book: Peter Duchan
Director & Choreographer: Anna Besford-Smith
Musical director: Amy Robson
We love the brave decision when a theatre company decides to do a new musical rather than one of the familiar pot boilers.
Dogfight is based upon the 1991 film of the same name. No, we don’t remember the film either. However, the topic of lads on “shore leave” before going into action is not a new one for the movies. The musical got good reviews during its 2012 Off-Broadway and 2014 Southwark Broadway runs. The cast recording has many positive comments on Amazon too. So, in a fairly quiet week for theatre, we headed off to the Durham Theatre.
It is 1963 and Eddie Birdlace (Luke Henderson) finds himself with one night in San Fransisco before being shipped out to Viet Nam first thing the following morning. Along with Bernstein (Kyle Potter), Boland (Adam Donaldson) and others, he decides to make the most of it before heading into the unknown theatre of conflict. The lads want a drink, to be competitive, find female companionship and build bonds between the comrades.
They meet up with the innocent music lover Rose (Amber Cox) and the much more street-wise Marcy (Anna Besford-Smith).
This was the first night and the first act had numerous problems with the sound but the situation was greatly improved in the second half. It was during the second half when we get to hear some great songs by Pasek & Paul. Amber Cox, in particular, had a chance to shine - both as a singer and as the really spunky character Rose.
There was an authenticity to the young age of the Jarheads as Paul Hardcastle reminded us in his 80s hit - the average age of the combat soldier in Viet Nam was 19. Too often these roles get cast to older actors. Having said that, the story struggles to show any comradeship or chemistry between the new marines. With the exception of Rose and Birdlace, it is difficult to actually like any of the people and this lack of empathy can be off putting.
Amy Robson led a good group of musicians that skilfully accompanied the singers and were consistent throughout the show.
Dogfight is an interesting musical for those who love seeing new works. Now the first night nerves are out of the way it is clear from the second act that this show will improve as the run continues.
Review: Stephen Oliver
On the web: Facebook event LINK.