October 6, 2009

A Gay World War II Musical

When people complain that there is a dearth of new musicals on Broadway, I usually tell them they are looking in the wrong place. In fact, there are plenty of new American musicals these days at small theatre companies (like Second Stage, where "Next To Normal" got its start) or local theatre festivals (like NYMF, which is currently going on now).

Last night, I got an interesting look at one of the most unusual and compelling musicals of the current season; the gay Word War II tuner "Yank!". The JCC presented the show's all-in-the-family creative team, brothers David and Joe Zellnik, as they sang a few selections from the tuneful score and talked about how they collaborated on their third stage musical.

Named after the Army's own newspaper written by and for soldiers during the war, "Yank!" is an old fashioned show with a new fashioned twist; a gay love story during wartime...with tap numbers!
The story of "Yank!" follows a young inductee named Stu as he falls for another man in uniform named Mitch. Thoroughly researched, the show is based on the secret history of The Greatest Generation gays who, in many ways, laid the groundwork for Stonewall and the modern gay rights movement. Other than Allan Berube's amazing book "Coming Out Under Fire", these stories have stayed fairly hidden over the last 60-odd years. David Zellnik pointed out that in Tom Brokaw's bestselling book about the war, he didn't find one gay veteran to interview.

Thus "Yank!", like the soldiers it portrays, is on a mission not only to entertain but enlighten. And the show, which I saw in its earlier incarnation at the Gallery Players in Brooklyn, does just that. So
if you're looking for a fun new musical, "Yank!" is definitely one to check out. It's happening at the York Theatre, with previews beginning February 16, 2010. Tickets are already on sale at their website so do yourself a favor....go see a real, live NEW American musical.