Wednesday, August 22, 2018


Music and Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul - Book by Peter Duchan
Directed by Zoe O’Leary Cameron - Musical Direction by Jack Quail

Choreographed by Em Roberts –Set designed by Millie Bull and Kat Carrington
Costumes designed by Jen Murnane – Graphics Coordinator – Katie Ward

Presented by ANU Musical Theatre Company
Belconnen Community Theatre – August 16th to 25th

Performance on 18th August reviewed by Bill Stephens

Olivier Klinger (Gibbs) - Samuel Thatcher (Marine) - Tristan Davies (Bernstein)
Christian Maaia (marine) - Rohan Pillutia (Birdlace)
The dogfight in the title of this musical refers to a practice, apparently encouraged by American marines during the Vietnam War as an informal exercise in dehumanization, to make it emotionally simpler for them to carry out their violent orders. This dogfight is a party where the marine who brings the ugliest, unsuspecting date wins a cash prize.

The show itself, set in the 1960’s, and first seen off-Broadway in 2012, is an early effort by the song-writing team of Pasek and Paul, best known for the films “The Greatest Showman” and “La La Land”, and an interesting and challenging choice for the ANU Musical Theatre Company and first time director, Zoe O’Leary Cameron.

With its coarse language and misogynistic behavior it is sometimes uncomfortable viewing, but despite budget and casting limitations, O’Leary Cameron and her team have managed to produce an interesting and thought-proving production which showcases a truly outstanding performance by Tegan Braithwaite as the central character, Rose.

As the too-pretty date of Birdlace (Rohan Pillutia), who with his two rooky marine mates, Bernstein (Tristan Davies) and Boland (Jeremy Spencer Broom), organize the dogfight, Braithwaite is mesmerizing. Despite a limited vocal range, her singing is so heartfelt that her songs sound like an extension of her dialogue. She has the ability to lose herself in her character so that her every move and reaction is totally believable. Her performance alone is worth the price of admission.

Tegan Braithwaite (Rose) - Rohan Pillutia (Birdlace) 
Rohan Pillutia impresses as the unrelentingly intense Birdlace, who finds himself juggling his confusion over his growing feelings for Rose, and his loyalty to his mates, and Daisy Sibtain, as the hard-bitten, worldly-wise prostitute, Marcy, gives a strong performance. 

Millie Bull and Kat Carrington’s excellent multi-level setting incorporates colourful LED graphics to conjure up various locations and is used to good effect by O’Leary Cameron in her staging of the production numbers and particularly for the scene on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, and the bedroom scene towards the end of the second act.

Of particular  interest in this production is the opportunity to hear the  Pasek and Paul  score, which, while not particularly distinguished, is beautifully  performed here  by Jack Quail’s onstage ensemble, and mostly, well-sung by a cast in which any lack of experience is more than compensated by their strongly committed performances.

Rohan Pillutia (Bridlace) -Jeremy Spencer Broom (Boland) -Tristan Davies (Bernstein)
Samuel Thatcher  (Fector) - Christian Maaia (marine) - Campbell Moore (marine)
Full marks to the ANU Musical Theatre Company for providing the opportunity to enjoy this creditable staging of a  challenging and thought- provoking musical, which continues in the Belconnen Community theatre until August 25th.

 This review first published in the digital edition of CITY NEWS on 20.08.2018