Boy meets boy. Boy gets boy. Boy loses boy. Maybe…Not your typical Rodgers and Hammerstein love story. But a love story nonetheless. A beautiful love story set during WW II – in the Army. Bring along a tissue or two as it is also heartbreaking and totally honest. And funny. And toe tappingly tuneful. Thanks to its creators – Joseph and David Zellnik – both gay, both magnificently talented and both beaming at the back of the house at the York Theatre where Yank! is receiving a full bodied, sensitive and totally entertaining production. With an exceptional cast of eleven men and one woman – the distinctive Nancy Anderson – portraying the women in their lives and dreams.
All the elements of an old fashioned musical comedy have come together including a dream ballet in Act II (although nicely executed by Denis Lambert & Joseph Medeiros it makes the already long show longer) with a timeless and timely story of two servicemen falling in love with each other. Where falling in love in the Army can get you ousted if you’re outed.
The fluid direction of Igor Goldin is helped immensely by the simple yet magical set of movable screens designed by Ray Klausen – creating the effect of watching a movie – live on stage. Costumes by Tricia Barsamian, particularly those of Ms. Anderson as she changes characters (and wigs) are particularly eye catching. And Ken Lapham can beautifully change mood and location with a flick of his light switch.
Bobby Steggert is absolutely terrific as Stu – who finds a diary of a gay soldier in a junk shop – where most people would think it belonged – then becoming the character, telling his story with an electrifying and honest performance going from being scared about taking a shower with the guys to professing his attraction and love and then becoming man enough to fight what he thinks is right that makes you care for him and his gorgeous in-the-closet boyfriend Mitch – portrayed with equal compassion by Ivan Hernandez. What a beautiful couple.
There is an assortment of characters which include your typical homophobic hick from Tennessee (Andrew Durand), the Polak Czechowski (Tally Sessions), Rotelli with a strong Italian accent (David Perlman), Professor (Christopher Ruth), Sarge (a tough Todd Faulkner who doubles as Scarlett) and a trio of gay stenographers (including Zak Edwards as Melanie) working at Yank Magazine where Artie (Jeffry Denman) is head journalist and who helps Stu secure a job as photographer – keeping him out of the line of fire – teaching and convincing him how to protect himself with a great syncopated tune “Click”. He is also responsible for the great dance sequences.
For all the fun found in Yank! – there is an equal amount of seriousness that reminds us all that we should be free to be who we are and to be able to love anyone openly without fear of being destroyed. That we shouldn’t have to hide, keeping our lives in the shadows. To not be afraid to stand up for what we believe in. And boldly sing and dance about it. We can thank Joseph and David Zelnick for doing just that it such an entertaining and sincere manner. www.yorktheatre.org Photo: Carol Rosegg