Review by Tulis McCall
24 Feb 2010
I don’t know how it is that the planets align and we are suddenly inundated with shows that share a certain theme – but it has happened again. Yank! Joins The Pride and The Temperamentals in the lineup of current shows about gay men.
In WWII there were hundreds of thousands of gay men who were in the closet or marginalized. Homosexuality was illegal. Soldiers arrested for it in WWII were given 20 years and sent “back to Virginia to get acquainted with the guys arrested for it in the last war”. Either that or they were given a Dishonorable Discharge.
Yank! is a full-blown love story that takes place in WWII and features all that swell music that sounds as though it were straight out of an Andrew Sisters song book. This is story of Stu (the extraordinary Bobby Steggert) who discovers his sexual preference after he signs up for the Army. Before this, all he knew was that he didn’t like girls yet; showers with guys made him nervous; and he was the pits at rifle drill. His buddies call him “Light Loafers” which makes him think he might be like the men in the steno pool who have nicknamed themselves Scarlett, Melanie and India. And, oh yeah, there is this one guy, Mitch, nicknamed “Hollywood” because he is just so good looking, that Stu can’t get out of his mind. Mitch has been flirting with Stu from Day One, and it takes its toll. When Stu admits feelings for Mitch they share their first kiss. Lift-off.
The trajectory of this romance and its position in the middle of the War in the Pacific is handled with panache. The story is both parody and personal. The music covers everything from Betty Grable’s behind to squadron loyalty to the importance of your Army uniform no matter who you’re schtupping. The harmonies are vibrant and the choreography tight. When Stu becomes a photographer for Yank Magazine under the tutelage of Artie (Jeffrey Denman) who recognizes in Stu a fellow homosexual, his induction into manhood matures him but leaves his love for Mitch unsullied.
The responsibility of the production rests on the shoulders of Bobby Steggert who has a steady style and a natural grace on stage. Steggert knows just when and how to break the fourth wall, thereby including us and maintaining his connection to the story at the same time. It is this tweak that is critical for the story to work. Without it, Stu would be another statistic that we could write off as we left the theatre. Steggert is also surrounded by a cast that is more than excellent. The only one who seems a little left behind is Ivan Hernandez who plays Mitch. His internal rhythm feels out of step in the first act, but he nearly catches up in the second. Jeffry Denman’s Artie borrows from N=Milo in Catch 22. He is a twisted opportunist who knows the value of a great pitch. Nancy Anderson is a brilliant treat as “The Women” – playing at least 6 different characters with as many songs. And she doesn’t have to share her dressing room with anyone. How fab is that?
As a matter of fact, none of the women in the audience had to share. The line to the mens’ room stretched down the hall while we gals nipped in and out of the ladies’ in no time flat. Just another reason to hope shows about our gay chums are here to stay. Of course if the gay women ever catch on, the bathroom deal will be over. Oh well. Enjoy it while it lasts, ladies.
And Yank! Would be a great place to start.
"The show has a fine mix of humor and simmering drama."
Neil Genzlinger for New York Times
"A generic, unmemorable score and a barracks filled right from Central."
Frank Scheck for New York Post
"This little musical could definitely march beyond its current engagement into a commercial run Off-Broadway."
David Sheward for Back Stage
"Supremely entertaining. Often unabashedly romantic and quite funny, this sweetly old-fashioned show never slips into a soupiness that might lessen the effectiveness of its emotional message."
Michael Kuchwara for Associated Press
"bright, original and moving winner of a musical that earns its exclamation point."
Steven Suskin for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...