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It's a Dogfight at Three Form Theatre

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Saturday, Jul 12, 2014 06:00 am

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Dogfight
Three Form Theatre
July 12 to 19
C103 (formerly Catalyst Theatre)
8529 Gateway Boulevard
Tickets: $20. Call 780-420-1757 or purchase online at tixonthesquare.ca or at door

In the past decade, military stories with covert operations and stealth drones have been great fodder for the motion picture industry.

Theatre, on the other hand, takes a more sublime approach. And so it is with great interest that Three Form Theatre is unveiling the Canadian premiere of Dogfight, a new musical by New York composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

Coincidentally this young duo’s award-winning musical A Christmas Story is slated as St. Albert Children Theatre’s upcoming November production.

Dogfight takes place in San Francisco on Nov. 21, 1963, the eve before three young marines are deployed to an expanding conflict in Vietnam. Before shipping out, they go for a final boys’ night of debauchery, partying and a little bit of trouble.

During the night, the marines attend a “dogfight.” A dogfight is a party where marines compete to bring the ugliest date without the girls’ knowledge. Whoever invites the ugliest girl wins the bet.

“I actually talked to men who were part of a dogfight. Back then it was the ugliest girl. Now they try to find the fattest. It’s very humiliating,” says director-music director Curtis Labelle, a voice and piano teacher at Visionary College.

“When you’re away from women and you get one opportunity, you just want to have sex. A dogfight is a custom in the military, a ritual of the brotherhood. There are unbelievably malicious, vindictive things that go on in the military.”

In Dogfight, Corporal Eddie Birdlace (Steven Angove) meets Rose (Jillian Willems), a shy, idealistic waitress who yearns to be a folk singer. He charms and invites her to the party.

It is her first and she’s thrilled. However, when Rose discovers she’s the object of a cruel game, she is devastated and storms out.

Birdlace regrets his gauche actions and tries to find her. After a graceless beginning, an unconventional romance starts to unfold.

Labelle describes the musical as a new style in theatre canon.

“The music is infinitely similar to Sondheim in regards to the chord structure. But the rhythm is very rocky as with Jason Robert Brown. It’s very piano, very violin with bass, percussion and guitar.”

And although the music has a folk feel, it tests the 11-member casts’ limits with virtually non-stop vocals.

“It’s very taxing on the voice. The boys have to hit a B and for the girls there’s a lot of belt that’s required. There’s a lot of difficult harmonies and we approach them carefully, but the singers have good vocal chops.”

There are a great many lessons to be learned from this production and Labelle invites everyone to attend.

“It’s fresh. It’s different. It will take you back to the ’60s. The music is new and it’s toe-tapping.”

Dogfight runs July 12 to 19 at C103, formerly Catalyst Theatre.


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