It is 1963, a group of U.S. marines, barely out of their teens, are ready to conquer the world. President Kennedy is sending them to Okinawa, and from there to a little country close to India they can barely pronounce – Vietnam. The hometown heroes have a few days in San Francisco before they set sail. Time for them to plan a ‘Dogfight‘ – a cruel tradition where each men must wager $50, and whomever brings the ugliest date to their party, wins it all.
‘Dogfight’ is a musical play based on an obscure 1991 film starring River Phoenix, one that I really should check out to see if it is as good as the stage version. The main character, Eddie, meets a plain-looking waitress at a café. Rose, never having had much male attention, is delighted with the deceitful and smooth-talking lothario, who thinks he met his winning ticket. But slowly it is revealed that there is more to the unassuming Rose.
As the plot unfolds, we grudgingly overcome our loathing of these jerks – they are ignorant of their callous machismo, as with most things in life, being young and brain-washed with the particular patriotism of their army training.
Among the numerous great things of this musical production is the complexity of the characters. Through a love story that would be simple to summarise, it is told with tenderness, depth, and emotion – without ever feeling too clever or sentimental.
I found it hard to find any fault with the production – the songs are great, the performances are solid, the live band under the musical direction of local conductor Trevor Jones showcasing a great soundtrack, the writing top notch. It clocks at over two hours, but never felt that it was slow. I was fully engrossed by the story, and did send out a few texts during the intermission already telling a few friends that they should definitely come watch this. You should too – this is quality theatre that feels like a bargain for the pricetag.
Christian G. Is an international man of mystery; lover of books, cats and the performing arts; moonlighting as a finance professional by day.