Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester – until 8 April 2017
Manchester’s Hope Mill theatre yet again presents another powerful show with their energetic and touching production of Yank!, a show first brought to life off-Broadway in 2010. The Zellnik brothers’ World War Two love story focuses on shy and unsure new Army recruit, Stu (Scott Hunter) and his forbidden, blossoming romance with the ever charming – and typical G.I Joe stereotype – Mitch (Barnaby Hughes).
Hunter’s performance is excellent. Despite some flaws in the book his ability to portray the journey from an unconfident and naïve teen, growing into a haunted, hardened young man through his harrowing war experiences is breathtakingly honest. His numbers are beautifully sung, but much like most of the show’s material, lack variety or range; it was clearly a choice of the composer to make an honorable tribute to the music of the era, but all the numbers sadly bleed into one another.
Similarly, Hughes performance is strong, evidence of a deeply charismatic actor. Mitch’s inner turmoil, battling his feelings inside a highly homophobic and patriarchal society is incredibly convincing. He is the embodiment of a typical Golden Age actor, and while his character may not be as as particularly well written as Stu, his performance complements Hunter’s.
As an ensemble the company are vocally very strong, blending with ease into the space and for a cast of essentially all men, bar the ever outstanding Sarah-Louise Young, they succeed in creating a very rich and full sound. The choreography however is inconsistent. While steps be correct, the finish is sloppy specifically in a number such as Click. This is a full company tap routine where the overall impression still remains quite rough (and this nearly a week after the opening press night) and probably nowhere near as effective as choreographer Chris Cuming might have envisioned.
A particularly memorable member of of the company is Kris Marc-Joseph as the boisterous and loveable Czechowski. Though an ensemble number, his comic timing is impeccable and what moments he does have, in numbers such as Betty and Your Squad Is Your Squad are hilarious.
Overall Yank! is a moving story that touches its audience’s heart. Notwithstanding its flaws, the show is enjoyable, with James Baker again highlighting some beautiful talent currently to be found in the British theatre Scene.