By Phil McDermott on May 9, 2014
For it’s final play reading of the season, Rainbow Theatre Project delighted an SRO audience at Source on Monday night, May 4, 2014, with the off-Broadway hit Yank! A New Musical. Successfully produced in NYC in 2007, the show has been languishing in theater limbo ever since. There were plans to bring the show to Broadway, but as often happens, nothing ever came of these plans. Such a shame! The cast of ‘Yank!’ in rehearsal.
The show is set in the waning years of World War II and concerns a diary that was kept by a young enlisted man named Private Stewart. In it he details his experiences with the other enlisted men of Company “C” and his burgeoning feelings for a fellow soldier named Mitch. Though the story deals with the issues of gays in the military, what it really comes down to is a love story with a war- time backdrop. That’s why even with “don’t ask don’t tell” in hindsight, the play resonates so strongly. These could be any two individuals at any time in history. The added poignancy of the war and its toll only strengthens the impact of the storyline.
With insightful and humorous book and lyrics by David Zellnik and haunting music by his brother Joseph Zellnik, the show uses pastiche to create period songs, chorus numbers and powerful ballads to tell the story of the men of Company “C.” The entire cast of local favorites proved more than up to the task of telling this heartbreaking story. Special mention must be made of Paul Scanlan as Mitch. Recently seen as Claude in The Keegan Theatre’s Hair, he continues to impress with a beautiful voice and commanding stage presence. Kurt Boehm as Czechowski, Chris Sizemore as Sarge/Scarlett and Robert Mintz as Artie (complete with a nifty tap number) deserve extra kudos. Maria Egler, playing no fewer than five female roles, created a distinct character for each without so much as a single costume change. And what a voice! Adroitly co-directed by Rick Hammerly and Patrick Pearson with sure-footed musical direction by Adam Wiggins, Yank is a show that deserves to be seen. Here’s hoping that one of the area’s local theater companies has the wherewithal to do a full-scale production of this powerful piece sometime in the near future. Rainbow Theatre Project has ended its ambitious freshman season with a top-notch production of a thoroughly remarkable musical. They are to be congratulated.