Review: Yank!

Originally reviewed for

Set during World War II, the new musical Yank! follows a young serviceman named Stu (Bobby Steggart) as he nervously explores his attraction to men. Bookwriter David Zellnik has created a compelling voyage of discovery for Stu, as he finds true love, promiscuous sex and underground gay culture in ways that overlap and conflict. Cutie-pie Steggart imbues Stu with a very winning combination of sweet good humor and tender longing.

In fact, this is one of those musicals where the book is often more interesting than the music. The energetic and functional score by Joseph Zellnik (David’s brother) captures the general flavor of 1940s pop, but something’s missing. This is a show that practically begs for music that is jazzy, breaks out and swings, and that rarely happens. I don’t know whether it’s Zellnik’s songs themselves, or the way that they’re arranged and played, but the underlying musical rhythm here is decidedly, and unfortunately, “square.”

One song that does successfully swing is “Click,” in which Artie (Jeffery Denman), a gay reporter for Yank magazine (which gives the show its title) shows Stu the ropes of how one gets laid in this man’s army, through the metaphor of tap dancing. Denman, who’s great fun in the role, also choreographed Yank! and gets points for the lively tap routine. He needs them, because he also gets some demerits for the pretty but pointless dream ballet in Act II. It does indeed stop the show, but in all the wrong ways.

Director Igor Goldin does a marvelous job of keeping the action brisk and fluid. Nancy Anderson playfully portrays a series of radio chanteuses — and a very cagey lesbian army officer. Yank! is amusing and occasionally though provoking; I just have the nagging feeling that there’s a better show in there that hasn’t quite found its way out yet.

For tickets, click here.

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