photo: Carol Rosegg
A gay love story between two WW2 servicemen told in the style of an old-fashioned romantic musical, the Zellnik brothers' Yank! is a rarity indeed: an unabashedly emotional, enormously entertaining throwback that packs contemporary punch. Powered by a savvy book and a delightful score that summons the 40's without sounding by-the-numbers, the musical succeeds at paying homage to the musical theatre of the period while employing its conventions to tell a story that could not be told at the time it's set. (It's somewhat analogous, although not as formally rigid, to what Todd Haynes achieved with his film Far From Heaven.) The story, gently and effectively framed by modern-day narration, centers on the wartime romance between young private Stu (Bobby Steggert, nothing short of astonishing) and his Hollywood-handsome squadmate Mitch (Ivan Hernandez) whose love dare not initially speak its name for reasons both societal and personal. The musical charts their attraction toward each other and its consequences, allowing Stu a convincing and powerfully portrayed trajectory from insecure, emotionally isolated kid to self-respecting, gay-identified adult. There's certainly a take-away socio-political message, but Yank! is first and foremost a nifty, enjoyable entertainment. Great levity is provided by Jeffry Denman (also responsible for the show's snappy choreography), who is exceptional as an Army journalist who mentors Stu in the codes of conduct of gay subculture; further support comes from the cast's lone female Nancy Anderson, who shines in a variety of 40's-style songs.