1960s. San Francisco. The Vietnam War is beginning to gain momentum, and the protests to follow are right around the corner. Meanwhile, a wily band of Marines spend their last night playing a cruel dating game. Lake Country Playhouse's intimate staging of Dogfight, a lesser known show by Pasek and Paul (the musical creatives behind Dear Evan Hansen, La La Land, The Greatest Showman, and Disney's newest Aladdin) runs through July 21st.
All photos courtesy of Robert Colletta Photography. Justin Spanbauer, Eamon Schiro, and Henning Mahn.
The rules of the game are simple. Every soldier drops $50 into the pot, and he who brings the ugliest date wins the pot. Eddie Birdlace (Eamon Schiro) brings waitress and aspiring folk singer Rose Fenny (Ashley Sprangers) and gets swept into an unconventional whirlwind romance.
Eamon Schiro and Ashley Sprangers.
Sprangers lights up the stage with her down-to-earth performance as Rose. While the character is often played with an animated quirkiness, Sprangers' subtler performance returns the realism to the story. Her mature vocal quality has a sobering effect on Birdlace in "Before It's Over", bringing the soldier out of his fantasies of heroism and into the moment.
As the self-described "Swiss army actor", Timothy Barnes unexpectedly steals the show in his numerous ensemble roles, including the lounge singer who serves as the entertainment (and final judge) of the dogfight. Barnes transforms the background character to a lively highlight of the show and breaks even the tensest moments with his comedic timing.
The company of Dogfight.
Jake Koch's lighting design is nothing short of wonderful. While the fog machine gets out of hand at times, making it difficult to make out actors' faces, the design choices themselves elevate the performance to a delectably theatrical experience.
Dogfight is less frequently produced than the other works of Pasek and Paul. However, the story has a good heart and combines the marks of modern musical theatre with the stylized music of the 60s. With messages of acceptance, loss, growing up, and choosing who you want to be, this performance (directed by Ami Majeski with artistic direction from Justin Spanbauer) resonates with people from all walks of life.