Yank! A WWII Love Story to Soldier On
By Ellis Nassour
It’s your last chance to catch one of the standout gay-themed productions in this season of numerous gay-themed shows, Joseph and David Zellnik’s Yank! A WWII Love Story, Lortel nom’d for Outstanding Musical – at the York Theatre Company at Saint Peter’s [Lexington and East 54th Street]. It’s been one of the company’s biggest box office bonanzas, but finally must close on Sunday. The good news is that the dedicated work of a number of producers has resulted in the news that this show with great heart – and it’s right-on 40’s era score and 12-member cast – will have a second life on Broadway.
Yank! chronicles the off/on, rocky relationship between two servicemen against a backdrop of fear, prejudice, courage and survival. It took the Zelllnicks 10 years to get their show up at the 2005 NYMF, then regionally, and to the York. Longtime festival play/musical and regional director Igor Goldin is at the helm.
The outstanding cast is headlined by Bobby Steggert’s Stu, who’s totally love-smitten for barracks bud Mitch, portrayed by Ivan Herandez. In a stunning ommission, neither were nom’d by the Lortels. The all-purpose woman in the soldiers’ lives is marvelously essayed by multi-talented Olivier and DD nom Nancy Anderson. And there’s a surprise in the show: Jeffry Denman, straight out of White Christmas on Bway and on tour, plays against type and isn’t so straight anymore as way out there gay ‘n proud – and tap dancing – Yank Magazine writer Artie. Denman is also Lortel nom’d as choreographer.
The York engagement has been visited by numerous military veterans who’ve told their stories of coming out under fire in the long ago era before Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell. However, as an aside, if some of the composited events and characters in the musical are to be believed, it appears gays not only weren’t so closeted but were not only designing those Navy whites and literally running Uncle Sam’s Army! But, then, that’s the nature of theater. Ironically, in spite of the military’s policy then, there were few generals and ship captains, not to mention, battle filmmakers that didn’t have a gay onboard in a top position or in command.