Though dramatically staged and effectively lit, this American musical, based on the 1991 film, proves to be a rather nasty piece of work which seems to suggest that death in Vietnam is the well-deserved consequence of misogyny back home, and that, if you repent of your misdeeds, see the error of your ways and beg forgiveness, you may, after the requisite degree of purgatorial suffering overseas, be permitted to return to find some sort of redemption and happiness.
There isn’t a canine in sight – the “dogs” in question are the girls (the uglier the better) selected for a bet by a group of US marines the night before they ship out in 1963. Among the jarheads is the close-knit trio of Birdlace, macho, unprincipled Boland and reluctant virgin Bernstein – the self-styled Three Bees.
Initially Jamie Muscato’s well-sung Birdlace thinks he’s onto a winner when he picks up frumpy, waitress Rose in a San Francisco diner (Laura Jane Matthewson making an impressive, sweet-voiced professional debut) but he soon comes to realise looks aren’t everything and that, surprisingly, he really likes this guitar-playing girl.
Director Matt Ryan ensures the close-cropped marines are well-drilled, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s music and lyrics pass muster and, though otherwise unpleasant, Peter Duchan’s book at least gives the women (including Rebecca Trehearn’s seen it all/done it all prostitute) a small chance to show they’re not prepared to suffer such callous treatment without making a stand.
Where: Southwark Playhouse, Newington Causeway, SE1 6BD
Tube: Elephant and Castle
When: Ends September 13