Friday, March 5, 2010
Theater Review-- Yank!: A World War II Love Story
The hardest part of seeing the play Yank! was finding the York Theater. Tucked away in the basement of the Church of St. Peter on 54th and Lexington, the street numbers magically jump from 601 to 649 Lexington, leaving this theater-goer at a loss to find 619 Lexington.
But do not fret, the theater is in the basement of the beautiful St. Peter's, and though I loathe the Upper East Side, I would make the pilgrimage to see Yank! every single night if my theater budget would allow me to do so.
This show was phenomenal.
The story opens with a young, presumably queer, man that has found an old journal in a junk shop in San Francisco. The journal chronicles the love story of Stu and Mitch, two men that find love at the height of World War II. Dealing with issues of war, sexuality, race, and cultural tropes all set to hilarious and sometimes poignant original musical numbers, Yank pulls at your heart strings and plays the audience like the cello hidden offstage.
The story is focused on the two main characters Mitch and Stu. Mitch, played by the lamentably straight but oh so gorgeous Ivan Hernandez, and Stu played by the presumably (and hopefully) queer Bobby Steggert, are well rounded characters brought to vibrant life by these gifted actors. I saw Bobby Steggert in the recent, and now sadly defunct, production of Ragtime on Broadway. He wowed in Ragtime, and he blew me away in this production. But, even with stellar performances by Hernandez and Steggert, the show was completely stolen by Nancy Anderson, the sole femme (though most assuredly not the only femme) in the production. Nancy played half a dozen or more female characters throughout the show from a plucky USO girl and a sultry blues singer to General MacArthur's right hand lesbian wo(man). And each time she took the stage a great production became brilliant. I will literally see that woman perform in anything she does from now on whether it be a shampoo commercial or a Roger Corman film. She was a phenom and her voice gave me goose bumps.
In the end, the cast included laudable performances by Jeffrey Denman (Artie) to the bubbly and infectious Pole played by Tally Sessions. The fact that this show brings back tap, evoking old time movies starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kay, makes this lover of Savion Glover, a happy camper.
This show, mark my words, will be going to Broadway. And it is a success that the Zellnick Brothers, David and Joe, rightfully deserve. My only complaint is that I had the opportunity to meet David after the show last night, but he was coming in from out of town, and he wasn't going to arrive until nearly midnight, and this writer was already dead on his feet.
Thank you to Bill Martin for making this show happen for me last night. And to the rest of you, GO AND SEE YANK! It is running at the York Theater until March 21, 2010.
For showtimes and more information on the show, including additional reviews, check out the Yank! Website.
PS Yank was actually a magazine published by the Army during World War II, and actual pages from Yank were posted on the walls of the reception area of the theater. Included in some of the pages posted was a picture of my hometown, Minneapolis, from the 1940s. Kismet I tell you.