Celebrating one year of monthly favourites
Earlier this month young composing duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s heartfelt musical Dogfight received its UK premiere at London’s Southwark Playhouse, previously home to the successful In The Heights and The A-Z of Mrs P. The response from audiences and critics alike was overwhelmingly positive with many 4 and 5 star reviews gracing my Twitter timeline. My curiosity arisen, I decided to watch the 1991 film of the same name (starring River Phoenix and Lili Taylor) on which the new musical is based.
Set in late 1963, four Marines traverse San Francisco on the search for a date for a party that evening. This party is a ‘Dogfight’ where the Marine who brings the ugliest date wins a prize. Eddie Birdlace, after several unsuccessful attempts to secure a date, takes a break in a small coffee shop where he meets the shy, awkward but musically talented Rose. With some effort he charms her into accepting his invitation to the party but he quickly has second thoughts and, for the first time, considers the cruel nature of the Dogfight.
The film is hugely engaging, the leading pair give wonderful performances. Incidentally, the film has a fantastic soundtrack of its own but sadly this seems to be mostly unavailable as a collective piece. Fortunately the original Off Broadway production of the musical recorded Pasek and Paul’s work and the original cast recording was released on 21st May 2013.
The musical numbers are extremely enjoyable and instantly catchy. The title song, delivered with verve from the fantastic Annaleigh Ashford, is a particular stand out whilst Derek Klena, Josh Segarra and Nick Blaemire are in perfect harmony as the Three Bees. Lindsay Mendez is also in fine vocal form as Rose. A superb mix of musical styles provides a thoroughly entertaining piece of theatre that, from the aural point of view, certainly deserves the praise it has received over the past month.