Wednesday, 13 August 2014

REVIEW: Dogfight at the Southwark Playhouse

Dogfight is a new book musical based on the 1991 movie of the same name starring River Phoenix and Lili Taylor, premièred Off-Broadway in 2012 with Joe Mantello directing and a cast that included Lindsay Mendez, David Klena and Annaleigh Ashford It won the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical and it was also nominated for five Outer Critics Circle and two Drama Desk Awards.

The musical is set in 1963, the night before three young Marines are sent to Vietnam. At a dance they have have a competition as to who can bring the ugliest girl, Eddie meets Rose in her mothers dinner and after taking her to the dance she rewrites the rules of the ‘Dogfight’. 

The music in this piece is beautiful, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul have written modern and interesting piece that can easily be compared to the likes of Sondheim and Schwartz. George Dyer has done wonderful things with this score, he has hit the nail on the head with this one! I've seen a few things he's worked on and this, by far, has topped them all. The book is also very solid, Peter Duchan has given the characters enough time to grow on the audience and develop. He’s got the right balance of humour and intensity and Matt Ryans staging complements this immensely. 

This piece needs a good Director to understand exactly what it's about and to really dig into it, Matt Ryan does exactly this. It's an intelligent and emotional musical that grabs you're attention and doesn't let go. He creates a world in which we can be involved in but still sit back as the observer.  I couldn't keep my eyes off! It's very rare that I see a show that takes my breath away but this does exactly that. 

The production is performed in thrust and the company take full advantage of having audience on three sides. Never was there a time I felt left out of the story or isolated because of where I was sitting, Matt Ryan has staged this production very well. Another good point was that this show moves very fast, at no point did I feel bored. It was the perfect length, I could easily sit through it a few more times! 

Laura Jane Matthewson is an absolute star! She couldn't be more perfect for the role of Rose, she plays it with innocence and charm but with an attitude, she had the whole audience in her side from the moment she stepped on stage. 

Jamie Muscato plays Eddie Birdlace and boy can that dude sing! He played the character with a very hard outer shell but he had a warmth that made your heart melt. 

Rebecca Trehearn plays Marcy (among others) and she provides powerhouse vocals, you could learn a lesson or two from watching this woman perform. I was drawn to her when ever she was on stage.

The ensemble in this show really pull everything together, however strong the leads are it would not be the same with out them. Its a fairly small ensemble but theres the exact amount of people needed to make this production as special as it is. 

A perfect production which had been cast impeccably by Danielle Tarento, she has put together such a strong cast. This is a bold musical but its exactly what we need, THIS is the type of productions we should be seeing in the West End.  This show is truly something special, if you don't catch this you'll be missing out on one of the best shows of 2014.

Rating: ★★★★

Cast includes: Jamie Muscato, Laura Jane Matthewson, Emily Olive Boyd, Cellen Chugg Jones, Nicholas Corre, Matthew Cutts, Joshua Dowen, Ciaran Joyce, Amanda Minihan, Rebecca Trehearn and Samuel J. Weir

Photo credit: Darren Bell

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