I first heard about the concept of a “Dogfight” when I was a young and naïve waitress of about 19 years. I remember being shocked at the idea that men would place bets on who could bring the ugliest girl to a party, and then claim the jackpot upon judgment of the “biggest dog”.
Based on the 1991 film of the same name, Dogfight is a brutal look into pre Vietnam War 1960s America, where heroes were young men with 13 weeks of military training and women, their playthings, objects of desire or in this case, humiliation.
Doorstep Arts’ production doesn’t shy away from the ugly side of this culture, as anything other than completely committing to the misogynistic ideals of the young soldiers would make the characters even more despicable.
Fortunately the talented ensemble cast of Dogfight manages to find the balance between bitter and sweet with strong female leads and comedic moments that lift the audience from the darker themes of the piece.
Olivia Charalambous shines as Rose Fenny, the idealistic young waitress whom is one of the poor unfortunate souls picked for the impending dogfight by Eddie (Alexander Woodward). Charalambous’s sweet soprano fills the Chapel, doing justice to the incredible music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
It is the music that pulls this production so beautifully together. Musically Directed by Trevor Jones, it is impossible to not be caught up in the 60s style folk music that allows the audience to move effortlessly through Rose and Eddie’s journey. Whilst the juxtaposition of the soldiers musical theatre styling’s, out for “One last night” of drunken, hormone fueled fun is at times difficult to swallow, as the contrast of Marines sweet harmonies to the darker tones seems starkly out of place.
Joined by musical theatre and cabaret legend, Sally Bourne, whose scene stealing turn as Suzette left the audience in hysterics and Jaclyn Devincentis as toothless hooker Marcy, give lighter moments to the uncomfortable subject matter.
Doorstep Arts have produced a stripped back production that allows the music and story to speak for itself. Luckily, the story is intriguing and the talent (in particular Charalambous) are remarkable storytellers, and the music remains the real star of the piece.
Dealing with issues such as rape, prostitution, and violence, Dogfight is not a love story, far from it. It is a challenging and confronting piece of theatre that shows how far we have come as a society, if at all.
Doorstep Arts presents
Music and Lyrics Benj Pasek & Justin Paul | Book Peter Duchan
Director Darylin Ramondo
Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran VIC
Dates: 5 – 15 May 2016
Tickets: $44.90 – $49.90