Music by Joseph Zellnik; book and lyrics by David Zellnik
Charing Cross Theatre, Villiers St, London WC2N 6NL Reviewed by Jarlath O'Connell
This import from the innovative Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester was originally a hit off Broadway and is the kind of lushly sentimental fare which Rodgers & Hammerstein might have penned, had they set out to write about the hidden history of gay men during WWII. It follows the romantic education of a gay soldier from basic training to the horror of the front line in the South Pacific.
The show is steeped in 1940s lyricism and the orchestrations are perfectly attuned to Forties swing styles. Chris Cuming's winning choreography, including a nifty tap duo, never settles for a lazy parody and, pleasingly, this is an irony free zone. This is no mash up of old fashioned styles with modern ideas but rather it remains totally true to its period, reminding us of the constant risks of persecution, interrogation and imprisonment which confronted gay soldiers.
Both leads are standouts. Scott Hunter, as Stu, matures before our eyes from callow, bullied, youth to confident young hero and as his love object, Andy Coxon, has the dusky looks, golden voice and the dramatic intensity to make the conflicted Mitch believable. He 'passes' whereas Stu doesn't.
It works because, despite its big romantic heart, it has dramatic heft and James Baker's gossamer light staging enlivens it. Cabaret and improv artiste Sarah-Louise Young (pictured right) displays wonderful versatility playing all the female characters, from a dutiful lesbian soldier to various Betty Grable and Dinah Shore types.
Totally mainstream this deserves a chance outside the theatrical niche.