by Benj Pasek, Justin Paul and Peter Duchan
directed by Alan Patrick Kenny
The University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point Department of Theatre and Dance is staging DOGFIGHT. With an intimate setting, exceptional acting, and a well-designed production, anyone (who is old enough, comfortable with stage violence, has lungs that readily accept fog, and appreciates a good curse word) will enjoy the show.
Musical theatre fans in relatively remote parts of the country often suffer in silence, never getting to see shows that failed to meet with widespread commercial success. Luckily, universities can be a saving grace. And since the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point has an excellent musical theatre program, DOGFIGHT is a great option for the underserved Midwestern public.
This 2012 Off-Broadway musical is based on Nancy Savoca's 1991 film of the same name. Set in 1963, it follows a group of Marines hosting a party called a "dogfight" where each man tries to bring the ugliest girl. But one of the Marines falls for his date who soon learns the truth of the cruel game. The music and lyrics are by Pasek and Paul whose more well-known works include A CHRISTMAS STORY, THE MUSICAL and selections from the TV show SMASH.
The choreography by Sam Skalbeck was unique and engaging. The scenic design by Alesha Hollatz was clever and enjoyable with just a few pieces of set being used and reconfigured to set different scenes and completely change the dynamic of the stage. Ellen Reid's lighting design was also exceptional, particularly in the scene depicting combat in the Vietnam War where it successfully conveyed both the jungle setting and gunfire.
As for the actors, all were on point. Sam McLellan delivered an emotionally-charged performance as Eddie Birdlace, leading to a room full of people struggling to suck back in their tears at the end of the show. Haley Haupt was funny, awkward, and likeable as Rose. Calum Bedborough played Boland (a jerk) with swagger and finesse. Drew Swenson as Bernstein was also a standout. His earnest performance made him sympathetic even when the character did some things that were not so charming (on the urging of Boland, naturally).
Photos by Tom Charlesworth