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BWW Review: YANK! A WWII LOVE STORY Returns After 10 Years For An Anniversary Staging At Feinstein's/54 Below

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BWW Review: YANK! A WWII LOVE STORY Returns After 10 Years For An Anniversary Staging At Feinstein's/54 Below

Heigh-Ho, My Merry Rainbow Tribe! Bobby Patrick your RAINBOW Reviewer here. Putting the silent T in cabareT to bring you all the T...

Ten years ago, my angels, YANK! A WWII LOVE STORY opened at the York Theatre and ran a typical regional theatre 7-week run. Big deal... we didn't see it; we don't know why - we just didn't. Despite its subject of gay WWII soldiers meeting and falling in love and singing and tap dancing to cope with all the BS that would have come with their situation in 1943. Despite the fact, it boasted the talents (and FACES) of faves like Bobby Steggert as Stu, Ivan Hernandez as Mitch, and all the talents of Nancy Anderson playing about a dozen different women. Despite the fact it received a spate of nominations (and a couple of wins) in those Lucille-Obie-Loudon-Circular-Outer-League-Critics-Desk-Awards... We still didn't see it. Well, it seems we just missed out ten years ago but got a reprieve Monday night when Feinstein's/54 Below staged an opening night reunion concert, reassembling much of the cast and the show's creators, the brothers Zellnik; Joseph (music) & David (book and lyrics).

BWW Review: YANK! A WWII LOVE STORY Returns After 10 Years For An Anniversary Staging At Feinstein's/54 Below Continuing their mission of curating history by bringing back ghosts of musical theatre past in staged concert performances, F/54B wisely chose the Zellniks' beautiful patchwork quilt of pastiche, put it on their tiny stage and gave friends, fans, and a few newbies a look back at a show that looks back at a time when MGM musicals offered wholesome family entertainment and real soldiers did a lot of foot-tapping... but weren't dancing. Yeah, I said it... In the days before you weren't asking because we weren't telling, many a patriotic gay soldier met and fell in love over the mess hall tables and found secret ways and means to get with each other, using coded language, surreptitious touchings (sometimes in full view of their buddies) and the occasional 1-2 day pass to explore their love and longings overnight away from the base. A long stretch in Leavenworth awaited any soldier found to be canoodling with any other occupants of their fox hole. A very few of these stories had happy endings, most did not, and none made the history books. In the world of YANK! A WWII LOVE STORY, Stu & Mitch find ways to be together, sing together, dance together, and smooch together under the moonlight, all with the innocent help of their army buddies and their 12 best girlfriends. It's a simple boy meets boy love story set in a complicated time... War Time. Taking its title from Yank, the army weekly magazine published by the United States military during World War II (not to be confused with the military newspaper - Stars & Stripes), the Zellniks crafted a sweet, touching, funny musical comedy romance that truly looked and sounded like the BWW Review: YANK! A WWII LOVE STORY Returns After 10 Years For An Anniversary Staging At Feinstein's/54 Below aforementioned MGM outings that everyone in the '40s flocked to in order to forget about the war raging all around the world. The story of Stu & Mitch brings forth their need to sing and dance about their love through a dozen and a half well written, tuneful numbers, each of which had your rainbow reviewer swaying, laughing, humming during the choruses and just, in general, having a whale of a time. There was no bemoaning like an old curmudgeon, "Well we didn't go out of there humming any of the tunes!" because we did. All the music in YANK! was memorable in notes and lyrics. All the performances on the night were fully alive, even after 10 years for some of the players, and all the love on the stage between cast and creators and their audience was beautifully palpable. Inviting actors from other countries where YANK! had been staged, the crowd was treated to performances by originals Steggert & Hernandez and their York Theatre cohorts, the fabulous Anderson (as The Women), Tally Sessions, and Andrew Durand but also The UK's Stu, Mitch, and Women, Scott Hunter, Andy Coxon, and Sarah-Louise Young, Australia's Women, Naomi Price, an extra special guest appearance and solo by Nellie McKay, and Brazil's Stu, Hugo Bonemer, who went off book to tell the audience of the nerve it took to do Brazil's first fully gay musical show, and of his own gasp-inducing coming out, making him Brazil's first out actor and prompting his father's text, "Congratulations! You have the most famous A$$ in Brazil." And speaking of the book, excepting only a spare few lines here and there, the Brothers Zellnik jettisoned the script, opting to come to the stage between numbers to set up each song in turn, so we did not get a peek into the full show. Often times show concerts will provide an abbreviated version of the book to give BWW Review: YANK! A WWII LOVE STORY Returns After 10 Years For An Anniversary Staging At Feinstein's/54 Below the audience the feel of theatre over concert but in the case of YANK! the charming and funny Zellniks and their charming and funny intros, anecdotes, and trivia, by and large, kept things light and moving along during their allotted 80 Minutes, though becoming slightly distracting when asides and interjections interrupted musical numbers. But all was forgiven when David Zellnik proved that those who write can also do, when, subbing in for an absent Jeffry Denman, he sang the show's terpsichoriffic tap number CLICK (sans dancing sadly, because "Tappy Make Me Happy.") Nostalgia also "Make Me Happy" and we were pleased to learn that the musical director for the event, Andrew Gerle, Allison Seidner (cello), Todd Groves (reeds), and Larry Lelli (drums) all had YANK! On their resumes.

BWW Review: YANK! A WWII LOVE STORY Returns After 10 Years For An Anniversary Staging At Feinstein's/54 Below Another thing that "Make Me Happy" was a return to performing of Mr. Bobby Steggert. A few years ago he announced that he needed to make a bigger difference in the world than he felt he was doing on our stages, and that he would take a step back to study and take up a profession in social work. On that day we celebrated him and his decision, while mourning, just a bit, the loss of a favorite performer. Mr. Steggert was (is) one of his generation's golden children and was well on the way to the stars if you ask this rainbow reviewer. Please don't stay gone, my fellow Bobby.

As for the show, while all the songs we heard were truly wonderful callbacks to a bygone era of musical comedy, the highlight of the night had to go to the 3 Stu's (UK, US, & Brazil) who made a lovely trio out of the show's anthem, JUST TRUE, after which Messrs. Steggert, Hunter, and Bonemar fell into each other's arms for the warmest of 3-way hugs. In all, a night with YANK! A WWII LOVE STORY lifted the audience on the wings of glorious music and a heart touching love story that, with Trans Bans in the military, and states fighting constitutional rights to marry and even to just be ourselves, well deserves Bobby's 5 Out Of 5 Rainbows.

Find Out About All Things YANK! HERE
David Zellnik Has A Webby: HERE
Follow All Things F/54B: HERE

*All Photos By My Boss, Stephen Mosher

BWW Review: YANK! A WWII LOVE STORY Returns After 10 Years For An Anniversary Staging At Feinstein's/54 Below

BWW Review: YANK! A WWII LOVE STORY Returns After 10 Years For An Anniversary Staging At Feinstein's/54 Below

BWW Review: YANK! A WWII LOVE STORY Returns After 10 Years For An Anniversary Staging At Feinstein's/54 Below BWW Review: YANK! A WWII LOVE STORY Returns After 10 Years For An Anniversary Staging At Feinstein's/54 Below BWW Review: YANK! A WWII LOVE STORY Returns After 10 Years For An Anniversary Staging At Feinstein's/54 Below BWW Review: YANK! A WWII LOVE STORY Returns After 10 Years For An Anniversary Staging At Feinstein's/54 Below


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