Certainly, the musical’s premise is refreshing, and tells a story that needs to be told. In Yank!, America’s LGBTQ+ soldiers receive the air-time they were not afforded in the twentieth century: the musical tells the story of Stu and Mitch, two US privates in basic training who find themselves falling in love. On the heels of this year’s London Pride, which also marked the fiftieth anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK, it’s encouraging that depictions of the lives of historical gay men and women have made it onto the West End stage.
Unfortunately, the noble project of recovering these lost histories is not enough to save Yank!. A story with immense potential for originality was not done any favours by lacklustre dialogue and insistent cliché (‘I thought we had something special!’). Nor was its humour particularly self-aware: paradoxically, many of its jokes relied on stereotypes of the LGBTQ+ community, which it made only a half-hearted effort to reclaim or criticise. Even innuendo-laden jokes that should have been a shoo-in received only a limited audience response.
Yank!’s more original and genuinely emotional elements, perhaps because of its overall flatness, stood out. Sarah-Louise Young displayed a remarkable range, acting and singing the part of every female character. The musical’s greatest strength was predictably in its elements of song and dance: Scott Hunter as Stu in particular revealed himself a talented tap-dancer, while the choreography was impressive, and layered with some genuinely funny physical comedy. A moment in which the 89th squad considers the prospect of seeing action with mute terror lingers on with notable poignancy.
Nevertheless, when creators Joseph and David Zellnik describe Yank! as a ‘labour of love’, they aren’t wrong: it bears many of the hall-marks of a pet project. The duo, self-professed superfans of Rogers & Hammerstein, have delivered a half-baked update of South Pacific, with a few choice four-letter words thrown in. Yank! has its moments, but shines neither as a musical nor as a political work.
|What||Yank! at Charing Cross Theatre review|
|Where||Charing Cross Theatre, The Arches, Villiers Street, London, WC2N 6NL | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Charing Cross (underground)|
03 Jul 17 – 19 Aug 17, Monday - Saturday 19:30, Wednesday matinee 14:30pm Saturday matinee 15:00
|Price||£17.50 - £39.50|
|Website||Click here for more details|