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A CurtainUp London Review
While the songs in the crowd scenes are sung with gusto and the confidence that comes from being one of many onstage, the lyrics were too often lost in the enthusiasm. With the audience set on three sides and the large band on the fourth but set above, there were times when the sound balance seemed wrong as singers were drowned by the instrumentals.
Laura Jane Matthewson, who you would never guess is straight out of musical training, is excellent as Rose the overweight, guitar playing waitress who is invited out by Eddie Birdlace played by Jamie Muscato. He has asked her to the Dogfight dance where unknowingly the marine with the ugliest girl gets the prize but Eddie has second thoughts, revealing a streak of decency. His pal Boland (Cellen Chugg Jones) has broken the rules by asking a prostitute Marcy (Rebecca Trehearn) to come with him and take out her teeth to compete.
The soft rock and ballads are good. The choreographed scenes of the marines in a barrack room fun dance are not quite up to the dance we saw in From Here to Eternity.The lyrics may be excellent in places but too often the words were lost by the sound issues.
Rose and Eddie never looked right as a couple to me but that may be part of the point. He is handsome to look at and she is dowdy but a much kinder person. When Eddie comes back from trauma in Vietnam, he is a changed man, saddened but nicer. The scene in the restaurant was greatly enjoyed by the audience when Rose orders a meal using the profanities that Eddie has been using. And that is after she teaches Eddie how to change the mind of a Maitre D who has been reluctant to give them a table.
The men, who are barely more than boys, look right with the required new marine "jarhead" haircuts, very short shaved back and sides with small oval rugs on the tops of their heads. When Eddie is the only one to come back from Vietnam to San Francisco he is accosted by the 1968 hippies protesting at war and we feel for him in the change of culture he is now experiencing.
There are some good minor roles. Rebecca Trehearn as Marcy and the Marilyn figure and Emily Olive Boyd as Ruth Two Bears are pleasing. Nicholas Corre is Bernstein, a marine anxious to fall in with the crowd led by Cellen Chugg Jones' obnoxious but maybe typical Boland.
Dogfight didn't for me live up to the heady heights of Parade and Titanic nor to the sheer zaniness of Spring Awakening but I should imagine performances will become more confident with time and hopefully the sound issues can be sorted.
For Simon Saltzman's review of this show in New York with a complete plot synopsis and song list go here.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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