Yank!, the musical by brothers Joseph and David Zellnik which Richard Seff predicted would have a long life after its NY debut in 2010, has finally made it to DC thanks to The Rainbow Theatre Project.
This staged concert version is being performed tonight, May 5 at 7:30pm. Tonight’s performance may well set a record for the multi-talented Rick Hammerly, who is co-directing this and is also playing in Signature’s Threepenny Opera while overseeing his company’s production of The Amish Project in Anacostia. Hammerly and co-director Patrick Pearson have put together a dream cast for this staged sing: Christian Montgomery (Stu), Paul Scanlan (Mitch), Robert Mintz (Artie), Vaughn Irving (Tennessee), Kurt Boehm (Czechowski), Joshua Dick (Professor), Lou Steele (Rotelli), Aaron Bliden (Cohen), Chris Sizemore (Sarge/Scarlett), Rick Westerkamp (Melanie), Ryan Patrick Welsh (India), and Maria Egler (Louise/all females).
This is the first season wind-up for The Rainbow Project. We asked Producing Artistic Director H. Lee Gable to talk about Yank!
How does Yank! fit into Rainbow’s mission
Gable: The Rainbow Theatre Project is dedicated to telling the stories of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) community. Yank! tells the story of gay men and women in the Army during World War II. That is one of our stories. I spent most of the 1980’s serving in the Air Force. This was before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. This is a story I can relate to because in a way, I lived this story.
I imagine producing this one night concert version represents a considerable investment beyond your usual staged readings.
We wanted to end our first season with a bang. I also wanted to do a musical to show the range of our ambition. When I saw the possibility of getting permission to do Yank!, I knew this was the show I wanted for us. I was already familiar with the source material for the show and I had hoped to see the Broadway production but, unfortunately, that never panned out though it did open the door for us to do this concert reading. I was able to find a copy of the book which blew me away. It’s an incredibly strong book and then the music; it’s the icing on the cake.
So tell us the story of the musical
The musical begins as we are told of a journal that was kept by one Private Stewart or Stu. He is an almost 19 year old from the mid-west and it’s the Second World War. We start with his arrival at boot camp and his introduction to his fellow members of the 89th Charlie Company. He meets Mitch who become the man of his dreams. He meets Artie who helps him become a writer for “Yank: the magazine by the servicemen, for the servicemen”. We watch Stu as he goes from one assignment to another, eventually following the 89th to the front lines. He confronts his feelings toward Mitch and is confronted regarding his sexuality, discovering that a man like him is a man the Army doesn’t want.
Some numbers we especially look forward to you seeing are “Click” – a tap dance number that masquerades for Stu’s “coming out” and “A Couple of Regular Guys” – a duet between Stu and Mitch that is their dream of a life together.
How did you get the rights?
I asked. I think I had sent three emails inquiring about the show when I heard back from David Zellnik. We then exchange a lot of emails, had a phone conversation and then I went up to New York to meet David and his brother Joseph Zellnik. I answered all their questions and by the end, we agreed to do the show. Then it was just a matter of working out the details with their agent. All in all, it took about four months to sign the agreement.
Any hopes of doing a full stage version?
There is always hope. We are looking to do our first full musical production as part of our third season. Maybe we will do YANK! if someone else hasn’t already done it. The Zellnik brothers are coming down for the evening and I am hoping some of the other artistic directors in town will come to both see the concert and meet the Zellniks.
This staged sing is free and open to the public. Seating is first come, first served at Source, 1835 14th Street, NW in Washington, D.C. Doors open at 7pm. The show begins at 7:30pm.