Last night, the School of Theatre opened their latest musical, Dogfight, at Penn State’s Downtown Theatre.
Senior Kevin Toniazzo-Naughton takes the lead as Eddie Birdlace, a young, big-talking marine spending his last night in San Francisco with his fellow soldier buddies before shipping out to fight in the Vietnam War. As their final hurrah on the homeland, Birdlace and his best friends Bernstein and Boland, played by junior Johnny Link and junior Tommy Hart, respectively, organize a “Dogfight” to blow off some steam. The rules? Each guy is responsible for baiting the ugliest girl they can find and taking her to the party. The guy with the ugliest girl wins a pool of money. The catch? None of the girls know they’re at a Dogfight. Eddie quickly latches on to a waitress, Rose, played by senior Laura Landrum, and plans to win the entire pot. But when Eddie begins to feel guilty and falls for her, his night – and the rest of his life – don’t go the way he planned.
The show was a complete success from the opening number, “Prelude: Take Me Back.” As soon as Naughton and Landrum began singing in unison, it was clear the casting was perfection. Without a falter of a note, the two leads set the energy and the show on the right track from the get-go.
The icing on the cake, however, was the company as a whole. I won’t lie, when the Three Bees (Birdlace, Boland and Bernstein) snuck in beautiful three-part harmonies during “We Three Bees,” I may have passed out in my seat for a short time. While each individual cast member had their own strengths – Hart possessed an impeccable tough-guy persona as Boland while Link aced the inexperienced-yet-eager energy in Bernstein – together, the company was even stronger.
The first act was successful in building up momentum before the climactic number “Dogfight” featuring Rose and hooker Marcy, played by sophomore Jessie Davidson. Landrum flawlessly showed her depth as an actress with Rose’s transformation from sweet naïveté at the start of act one to enraged and matured in a span of 10 songs. I was never second guessing Rose’s motivations and actions because of Landrum’s conviction in her portrayal of the character.
The tech from the show, despite a few microphones issues, ran smoothly and without fail – a refreshing happenstance in such a fast paced show*. The constant movement and scene changes were a recipe for missed lighting cues and spotlights, but the stage manager and crew kept up without struggle.
Overall, the cast and crew were utter perfection and perfectly showcased the impeccable talent in the School of Theatre. Despite Dogfight’s novelty on the musical scene, the school only added to its success. Way to go, Penn Staters, and break a leg on the rest of your run!
Valley’s rating: 9/10 – do not miss this one!
The show runs from April 1st to April 11th, so make sure to head downtown and catch this amazing show!
*Disclaimer: One scene contains a combat fight, loud gunfire noises and strobe lights in a war setting. Please keep this in mind before you attend the show!