The off-broadway musical Yank! recently sailed across the sea to Manchester, where it played at the Hope Mill Theatre. After receiving critical acclaim, it has transferred to London’s Charing Cross Theatre, bringing a World War II love story to our hearts.
Being Gay in the 1940’s was pretty much unheard of (and totally illegal). If soldiers in the War were discovered to be this way, they were arrested and tortured for their crimes. In Yank! we meet a squad of army recruits, some of whom, whilst pretending to be interested in women, are secretly lusting after each other from afar. But whilst they might have the bravery to put themselves on the front line for their country, are they brave enough to stand up and admit who they love, especially when that has dire consequences?
Scott Hunter (Stu) gives a wonderfully emotional leading man performance as the shy introvert who is struggling to come to terms with his sexuality in a time when being ‘gay’ wasn’t something that was ever really talked about (or even known about). Andy Coxon (Mitch) perfectly complements Scott’s character and bring the brash bravado persona of a man who is reluctant to fall in love with another man, (even though it is clearly happening) and battles the demons inside his mind. Chris Kiely (Artie) gives a camp and fabulous performance as the journalist who takes Stu under his wing and teaches him the ways of the world. All three characters are completely different but work so well together. Special mention must go to Sarah-Louise Young, who, as the only female member of the cast, played all the female parts in the show with brilliant comedic effect.
Technically, the show didn’t feel quite ready, with clunky set pieces and lighting ques that were either missed completely or felt like someone was just turning a light switch on and off. On the other hand, the show is brilliantly directed by Chris Cuming and features some of the best choreography I have seen in a long time and tap numbers to rival 42nd Street.
Yank! is a heart warming story of war, love and self discovery. Well worth seeing. A gay Miss Saigon!
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Claire Bilyard