★★★★ | Yank! The Musical
Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre is the perfect setting for this MGM-style musical which is performed with style and honesty.
This new musical, written by brothers David and Joseph Zellnik, is having its premiere at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester. It is an apt location for this innovative piece which buckles the trend of new pop-musicals. Yank! is billed as World War II love story. While ostensibly this is true – it’s actually much more than it gives itself credit for.
The show centres around Stu, a young gay man, who is drafted into the army to fight in the Second World War. He struggles to find his literal and metaphorical place amongst the pseudo-masculine military men – a mission which is only complicated by his complex relationship with his fellow squadron Mitch.
Musically and stylistically, Yank! has all the makings of the classic MGM musical. Though the second act goes to places which are considerably more candid and poignant that you might expect from a show consisting of tap-dancing men in khaki.
Scott Hunter plays the timid Stu with a fragile believability and Barnaby Hughes’ Mitch has all the charisma you’d expect from an, albeit untraditional, leading man. The ensemble cast are also strong all-rounders and support the principle cast in moments of hilarity and sincerity alike.
Despite the show being set almost 80 years ago, the tropes of this new musical are as current as ever. Substitute the frontline with a school playground, workplace or a homophobic family home, and you’ll see that the struggles of young gay men are not confined to the stories of history.
The tropes surrounding institutions and homophobia couldn’t be more timely. In recent years we’ve seen the legalisation of gay marriage, the story of Alan Turing been turned into a Hollywood film, and scores of gay men being posthumously pardoned for sexual offence crimes.
Baker, the show’s director, said that he didn’t want these stories to get lost from history. With this charming new musical hopefully set to become a staple of musical theatre repertoire, the story of Stu and Mitch, and the men they represent, will hopefully live on for years to come.
Yank! The Musical plays at the Hope Mill Theatre until 8th April 2017
Young nomadic writer, currently living in Manchester.