The Marine Corps motto of ‘Semper Fi, Do or Die’ plays a large thematic role in Dogfight, a musical based on the 1991 movie of the same name –
Do or Die for your country. Do or Die for your Marine brothers. Do or Die for love.
Set in San Francisco in the late 60s, Dogfight tells the story of an ill-fated ‘last hurrah’ night on the town for three young marines – Birdlace, Bernstein and Boland. Along with their fellow marines, they set off to find dates to bring to the ‘dogfight’. The dogfight is a cruel judging of their dates, to find the most unattractive of all, and the winner collects the pot.
On his search for his date, Birdlace encounters shy and plain (but certainly not ugly) Rose and charms her into coming to ‘a dance’. Rose reluctantly accepts but, as she prepares for her date, is optimistic. Just before joining his marine buddies at the party, Birdlace’s conscious gets the better of him and he tries to talk Rose out of going, but she insists.
After the results of the dogfight are announced, Rose discovers the truth, confronts Birdlace and is heartbroken. As his buddies continue to have a true lads night out, Birdlace decides to try and make it up to Rose and take her out on a real date. The night continues, Birdlace and Rose grow closer together and end up spending his last night before shipping out together.
Birdlace rejoins his close friends in time to ship out, promising to keep in touch with Rose but decides that fully committing to his troupe is more important and throws away her address. Fast forward a year later, a broken Birdlace – having lost his friends in Vietnam – returns to a changed America and a more mature Rose. They embrace … hopefully to live happily ever after.
Dogfight is a relatively simple story-line, but a story-line that speaks to so many themes – friendship, loyalty, blind faith in a chosen destination, commitment to friends and country, following your heart, and sometimes … men are just shits … kidding!!
Jenna Woolley (Rent for Blackout Theatre Company, The Boy from Oz for Penrith Musical Comedy Company) and Ryan Henderson (Legally Blonde for Berowra Musical Society, Hairspray for Sydney Youth Musical Theatre) bring Rose and Birdlace to life with chemistry, innocence and heart. Woolley was particularly heartbreakingly vulnerable during ‘Pretty Funny’, which was not only her strongest song, but one of the strongest of the show. Henderson’s biggest number, ‘Come Back’, showed an interesting variety of acting and singing ranges.
Jed Arthur (Rent for Blackout Theatre Company and Legally Blonde for Sydney Youth Musical Theatre) and Matthew Giles (Back to the 80s for Blackout Theatre Company) play the cocky and confident Bernstein and Boland.
Together with a well rounded ensemble cast, director Angela Therese Hanna, musical director Koren Beale and choreographer Stephanie Bellchambers, the Blackout Theatre Company bring this production of Dogfight together on a simple stage with minimal sets (but with some quite clever costume changes), allowing the story to take centre stage.
Opening night was beset with usual opening night technical glitches with microphone levels not quite right and missed lighting cues, but these are to be mostly expected. The pure joy on the faces of all the performers and massive applause from friends and family at the end of the show was simply infectious.
DOGFIGHT – SEASON DETAILS
Venue: The Lendlease Darling Quarter Theatre (3/1-25 Harbour St Sydney)
Dates: Now until Sunday February 12
Ticket prices: Early Bird Adult – $37.50, Adult $42.50, Early Bird Concession – $32.50, Concession – $37.50
Bookings can be made online here