Book by Peter Duchan
Music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Directed by Grant Pegg and Kelly Roberts
Gunghalin College Theatre to 4 February
Reviewed by Len Power 27 January 2023
A movie in 1991, ‘Dogfight’, the musical, opened off-Broadway in 2012. It’s an early show by music and lyric writers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who would go on to have a big success with the movies, ‘La La Land’ and ‘The Greatest Showman’ and the hit Broadway musical, ‘Dear Evan Hansen’.
The first thing to say about ‘Dogfight’ is that, though you may doubt if it’s the show for you, given its unsavoury central idea – a marine in 1963 takes a girl to a party just to compete in a competition to see who has brought the ugliest date – it does not celebrate this appalling situation and the aftermath is handled with great sensitivity.
Much of the success of the production is due to the performances of the two leads – Alexander Clubb as the marine, Eddie, and Taylor Paliaca as the girl, Rose.
|Alexander Clubb and Taylor Paliaca|
Clubb captures the essence of the part of the marine who is young, inexperienced and full of bravado in front of his foul-mouthed buddies, but with a streak of sensitivity that makes him understand the hurt he has caused. He sings the role very well, especially his final song, ‘Come Back’.
Taylor Paliaca is very real as Rose. There is a great depth to her characterization and she is particularly touching in her songs, ‘Pretty Funny’ and ‘Before It’s Over’. Hers is an excellent and memorable performance in a difficult role.
Kit Berry also scores as the very street-wise Marcy. Her song, ‘Dogfight’, is a true highlight of the show.
|Alexander Clubb as Eddie (seated) with his marine buddies|
The actors playing the marines have been cast very well. There are believable performances from all of them. Pippin Carroll makes a charismatic impression with his secondary role of the Lounge Singer. The ensemble sings and dances very well.
The clever choreography by Nathan Rutups suits the period and helps to cover the numerous scene changes. Music direction by Caleb Campbell is masterful and the members of the small orchestra play the score very well.
The set design by Chris Zuber suggests the locale of San Francisco with elements of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was an inspired idea that is simple and attractive and works very well. Lighting and sound successfully add considerable atmosphere to the show.
The directors, Grant Pegg and Kelly Roberts have more than achieved their vision and concept for this show. In the wrong hands it might not have worked so well.
Photos by Janelle McMenamin
Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/