Theatre Review: Dogfight

A really great piece of Music Theatre

Presented by St Jude’s Players

Reviewed 04/08/2022

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul write great musicals together. Dear Evan Hansen and James and the Giant Peach are standouts in the contemporary music theatre genre.  They won the Jonathan Larsen Award, a truly great milestone in their careers which we anticipate will produce a few more modern musicals. They are the Rogers and Hammerstein of the 21st century producing musicals that are emotionally, and physically, demanding to sing and experience.

Dogfight was adapted from the 1991 film Dogfight, and was first produced in July of 2012 and opened for a limited season at the Second Stage Theatre off Broadway to rave reviews. It has since enjoyed seasons all over the world. It is a unique and difficult musical to stage and the combined talents of Brian Godfrey (Director), Ben Stefanoff (Musical Director) and Jethro Pidd (Movement Coach) have produced a very complex and engaging version of this unique piece of musical theatre.

This musical demands a high degree of musical and acting competence from the whole cast, and this cast did a very clear and competent realisation of some difficult and often confronting material. The ensemble singing was an integral part of the evening and apart from a few diction problems was effective and brimming with energy. The often flamboyant choreography sometimes threated to dwarf the action, but the serious and heart-wrenching subject matter cries out for some comic relief provided by a talented and energetic supporting ensemble. Emma Wilczek, Kodi Jackson, Cassidy Jackson, Maxx Fischer, Brad Tucker, Sean Wright, William McCall, Junxiang (Shane) Huang and Godfrey himself, playing multiple characters, provided a solid and reliable foundation for the story to bed itself on to.

The four main characters of the plotline have built a great relationship and their acting and singing skills drive a passionate and at times frightening energy that gives this story its central core. Three men who have built a relationship based on fear at bootcamp on their last night in San Francisco before being deployed to fight in Vietnam. We get the need to let off steam, the need to compete for the position of top dog, the fear of never coming home.

Gus Robson (Eddie Birdlace) gives this character just about everything he has in the tank to make him believable, and vulnerable. Simon Barnett (Boland) is alive with competitive and acerbic vitriol, driving the plot along with energetic competitiveness and Steve Lewis (Bernstein) was suitably just a bit behind the eight ball.

The real driving force of the story is Rose (Ruby Pinkerton) a strong, believable and vocally outstanding performance full of heart and truth. Her songs were a highlight of the show and the showstopper of the night was the duet It’s A Dogfight with Sarah Whalen (Marcy). These two women can sing! (and act).

It is a courageous move at St Jude’s to put on a piece of outstanding contemporary music theatre. We have all been to St Jude’s and seen the always high standard and popular fare on offer (no complaints there from me), but this is a risk that was worth taking. Ben Stefanoff has assembled a first class bunch of musicians who support this cast with care and careful management. Ben also took a little time out to design the set, as you do! Jill Wheatly and Anna Siebert’s costumes were evocative of the period, the late sixties. Richard Parkhill’s lighting design provided mood and substance to the performance and Marty Gilbert did his level best in a very difficult room to give us a good sound balance.

It is a great piece of contemporary Musical Theatre and what an exciting thing to see St Jude’s putting on something challenging and risky.

As with all opening nights there were a few problems to sort out. Some of the male ensemble numbers got a little sloppy in their diction and my good old, constant gripe – Please remember your microphones are sound reinforcement not sound cushions. Please work as if you’re not wearing one and give your sound operator a signal to work with. Acting, singing and dancing demand a very high input of never ending energy, you can’t slack off for a moment.

Great show, great night out. Congratulations to the audience that braved one of the worst nights of the year to see a really great piece of Music Theatre.

Reviewed by Adrian Barnes

Venue:  St Jude’s Hall
444 Brighton Rd, Brighton SA 5048

Season: Thursday- Saturday August 4, 5, 6 @ 7.30 pm.
Thursday-Friday August 11-12, 7.30 pm.
Matinees Saturday August 6 & 13, 2pm.

Duration: Approximately 2.5 hrs including 20 min interval

Tickets: Adult: $35.00, Concession: $30.00,

Bookings: Book via www.stjudesplayers.asn.au
or call 0436 262 628, or email [email protected]

Disclaimer: Brian Godfrey is the Arts Editor of Glam Adelaide and Ben Stefanoff is a reviewer for the Arts team.

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