BWW Interview: Director Denny Berry on Pasek and Paul's DOGFIGHT at the University of Utah
The University of Utah will present DOGFIGHT (music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, book by Peter Duchan) in the Babcock Theatre from February 3 to 19, 2016. For tickets, call the box office at 801-581-7100 or visit tickets.utah.edu.
The off-Broadway musical is based on the film of the same name about a young marine headed off to fight in Vietnam. On the eve of his departure, he invites a waitress to a party where the ugliest girl unknowingly wins a prize.
Director and choreographer Denny Berry kindly took time out of the show's final preparations to share her insights on the musical and her production of it.
1. How would you describe the plot and themes of DOGFIGHT to someone who is unfamiliar with the show?
This is a story about compassion being found in unexpected places.
2. What have you enjoyed the most about directing this musical in particular?
This is one of the most heartfelt and moving books I have had the pleasure to work with. The music is unique and totally supportive of the story, illuminating the time and characters in a way that is invigorating. It is inventive and complex, which is not only challenging but great fun.
3. What unique challenges has it brought?
The work on this play has been invigorating, exciting, even thrilling... The stars line up very rarely to allow theatrical elements to come together to make a stellar experience in the theatre...and this is one of those occasions.... It is actually an accident of fate when those stars align, and that happy accident is happening in the Babcock Theatre right now.
4. What do you most appreciate about Pasek and Paul's score?
Its uniqueness, its complexity. The score is vibrant and real and raw. It touches and reinforces every special moment.
5. Which song is your favorite and why?
That is like asking a mother which child they like the best! I like the way the songs, through the music tell the story. Each song takes us further along the adventure... "1st Date/Last Night" is a public favorite. "Before it's Over," that our amazing Liz Terry, as Rose, sings is crushingly heartfelt, beautifully lit, and touching. The song "Dogfight" is chillingly sung by Mikki Reeve and Liz Terry and brings the walls of the Babcock down.
6. Which moments of the show have helped you and your cast make discoveries about the characters?
"Come Back" has been a soul-searching journey finding the reality of loss, how a young mind deals with such tragic emptiness, and what PTSD might look like...traumatic... stunningly lit by David DeCarolis and amazing played by Jesse Klick as Eddie Birdlace.
7. Why should audiences see this production?
This piece is why we go to the theatre. To learn the joy, hope, and possibility of the human condition. Through what might seem initially like a difficult and ugly situation we learn the lesson of human compassion, understanding, and hope.
8. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
This is a play with music by the composers and lyricists of DEAR EVAN HANSEN, which just opened on Broadway to great critical acclaim after playing a sold-out run at Second Stage last spring. It is important work by the important up and coming ...or should I say, just arrived writing team of Pasek and Paul, who have received an Oscar nomination for best song for the most nominated film since TITANIC, LA LA LAND.
Content Advisory: Contains strong language.
Photo Credit: L-R Jesse Klick (Eddie) and Liz Terry (Rose). Photos by Todd Collins.