Before Pasek and Paul went to high school in DEAR EVAN HANSEN, the circus in “THE Greatest Showman”, or even to Hollywood in “”La La Land”, they wrote what might be one of their best musicals, DOGFIGHT. It’s a layered and thoughtful show that explores a single night before a group of Marines deploy for Vietnam, and a party invitation that isn’t what it seems. Luckily, DOGFIGHT gets a lovely interpretation from the talented cast of the Coronado Playhouse where you can see it through August 25th.
It starts out with a group of just out of boot camp Marines (“I’ve got 13 weeks of training” one of them says proudly at one point) in San Francisco celebrating their last night before they ship out to Vietnam.
When Eddie (Adam Sussman) and his friends Boland (Connor Boyd), and Berstein (Kyler Waitley) are on a mission, to have fun and win the “dogfight” party prize of $500, by bringing the ugliest girl to the party with them. The catch is the girl can’t know anything about this so she’ll just think it’s a date. (An unkind ruse to be sure, but if you think cruel humor like this is relegated to the past then you should probably steer clear of social media.)
Eddie finds Rose (Sarah Ah Sing) working at her mother’s diner and after discussing musical preferences convinces her to come to the party with him. Apprehensive but excited to go on her first date, shy Rose accepts. As the night carries on, and the party gets more rowdy Eddie starts to have second thoughts about all of this but ultimately tries to carry on in hopes Rose doesn’t find out. Naturally, she does find out, from a ringer one of the guys brought with them, a hooker named Marcy (Danica Waitely) who explains the rules to Rose.
This Rose is no shrinking violet though and isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in or for herself and marches out to give Eddie a piece of her mind and a solid punch in the jaw. Eddie tries to atone for his behavior and his friends try to have a great rest of their night before they are shipped out.
This show is an interesting and empathetic look at the changing dynamics of this time period and how the war impacted change both for those that served and those that stayed at home waiting for their return.
Sussman and Sing are excellent as Eddie and Rose, have strong voices, and play off of one another very well. Sussman is seemingly charming and gentle as he seduces rose (and the audience) into going to the party with him, so well that it’s a bit of a shock when he reminds us of what he’ll win by bringing her. In the jumps between past and future he transitions very smoothly between the cocky new Marine he starts as and the shell shocked returning veteran he later becomes.
Sing is so sincerely sweet that you want to yell ‘Don’t go with him!”, but the audience did cheer when she punched him. Her vocals are lovely and range convincingly from enthusiastically hopeful, to lonely and sad.
Danica Waitley is very funny and has a lovely duet as the world weary Marcy who educates Rose on the true purpose of the party. Conner Boyd and Kyler Waitley are also strong as Eddie’s friends, along with the rest of the ensemble.
Along with the talented band led by Nina Gilbert and the choreography from Patrick Mayuyu this show comes together to tell a bittersweet but evocative story about love, beauty, war, and forgiveness.
DOGFIGHT is playing at the Coronado Playhouse through August 25th. For ticket and showtime information go to www.coronadoplayhouse.com or call 619-435-4856