Second Stage Theatre
July 14th, 2012 matinee
Background and Synopsis: Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing the new off-Broadway musical, Dogfight, at Second Stage. Set to open on Monday, July 16th, Dogfight is based on the 1991 movie of the same name which starred River Phoenix and Lili Taylor. Directed by Tony Award winner Joe Mantello with a score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and book by Peter Duchan, Dogfight chronicles the events of November 21, 1963, as a group of Marines prepare for one last night of fun before shipping out to Vietnam the next day. When the Marines make a bet on who can find the ugliest date, Eddie Birdlace meets Rose Fenny, a plain, inexperienced waitress, and the cruel game turns into an unusual and unexpected connection between the two.
Comments: There is something very special about Dogfight- perhaps it is the raw and honest manner in which the characters are written by Peter Duchan. The New York stage has seen many musicals based on movies recently, but not all of them have succeeded as a musical. This production is a great example of a movie that actually works as a musical, much like the Tony Award winning musical, Once. The simple, but compelling story is enhanced by a hauntingly beautiful score written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, two fairly new, up and coming composers! Rather than interrupt the story with big, showy numbers, the music of Dogfight elicits character reflection and propels the story forward. There are many laugh-out-loud moments, the kinds that make you wonder how the actors are keeping straight faces. In fact, Dogfight exemplifies the even balance between drama and comic relief.
Rose Fenny is played by Lindsay Mendez, recently seen in the Broadway revival of Godspell singing “Bless the Lord”. Known for belting songs out of the vocal stratosphere, Lindsay’s portrayal of Rose is, of course, more subdued than her previous roles, but it definitely accentuated the warmth, richness, and expression in her amazing voice. Lindsay didn’t play Rose as an unattractive, mousy young waitress, but rather as a sheltered, inexperienced, intelligent girl with profound insight into people, specifically Eddie. Derek Klena (of Carrie) played the flawed and hot-tempered Eddie Birdlace. He did a great job of portraying the emotional layers of such a complicated character.
The supporting cast was also excellent. Standing out were Nick Blaemire as Bernstein, Josh Segarra as Boland, and Annaleigh Ashford as Marcy. In particular, Annaleigh really nailed the comedic timing as Boland’s opportunistic date.
If you want to see an enjoyable, heartfelt musical with a talented cast and beautiful music written by a pair of promising new composers, please check out Dogfight at Second Stage Theatre. It is not to be missed.