by Lorie Lewis Ham
You are always guaranteed a high quality show when you see a StageWorks Fresno show, and Dogfight is no exception. The music is amazing and the performances are top notch.
Dogfight is based on the Warner Bros. film of the same name. Most of the show takes place during the last night of freedom for a group of young Marines before they set out to fight in Vietnam. Their plans are to have a night filled with debauchery, partying, and trouble. The highlight of their night is an event called a Dogfight where they all set out to find the ugliest girl they can and bring them to a party where the women are secretly judged. The person who brings the ugliest girl receives the pot of money.
But things take an unexpected twist for Marine Eddie Birdlace when he meets an innocent and idealistic young waitress named Rose and invites her to the party without telling her what kind of party it really is. Throughout the night, Rose teaches Eddie some lessons about love and compassion, and even before they get to the party he regrets putting sweet Rose in this horrible situation. In Act 2, we get a glimpse of the bitter realities of war.
The music in this show is amazing and powerful, and there’s nothing quite like a group of talented young men all singing together in harmony! There are also some sweet and sad songs from Rose, and between Rose and Eddie. One of my favorite songs was one Rose sang called, “Nothing Short of Wonderful.” Eddie’s song, “Come Back,” was heartbreakenly beautiful.
Jordan Litz, who plays Eddie, is a very talented young actor. I’ve seen him play comedy (he was Rapunzel’s Prince in StageWorks’ production of Into the Woods), and now drama in Dogfight, equally well. And his voice is absolutely beautiful. While there were moments when I wanted to slug his character (and Rose actually does), there were also some very sweet life changing moments as Rose teaches Eddie more in that one night than he seems to have learned in a lifetime, and Jordan makes you live those moments with him. Rose is played by Ellie West and she brings this adorable and strong character to life, making you feel the highs and lows of this night for her. Her voice is powerful and lovely. She is easily my favorite character in the show.
Eddie’s friends Bernstein and Boland are a crude and mostly unlikeable pair of young men intent on having a good time their last night of freedom, no matter who they hurt. Gian Console and Josh Hansen play this pair perfectly and also provide a lot of the laughs in the show.
A great live orchestra always adds a lot to a musical, and this one helped make the music a definite highlight of the show.
I have to admit that I wasn’t a fan of the whole “dogfight” part of the plot, but Rose helps redeem the story and Eddie, and the music and performances make Dogfight a show you won’t want to miss. Every member of this cast is extremely talented. As I have said many times before, you can always count on StageWorks for a great show. Major kudos go to director Joel Abels.
Dogfight will be on stage at the Dan Pessano Theater, 2770 E. International Ave. in Fresno, until August 9. Tickets can be purchased on their website.
Check out this fun behind the scenes article about Dogfight in this week’s issue: kingsriverlife.com/07/25/costuming-the-musical-dogfight.
You can find more theatre articles, and other entertainment articles, in our Arts & Entertainment section.