ON THE RECORD: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's Dogfight

By Steven Suskin
02 Jun 2013

Derek Klena
Photo by Joan Marcus
Klena, who played Tommy, the likable boy who took that other awkward teen to the dance in the 2012 Off-Broadway revival of Carrie, does well once he gets past the "tough guy" songs the authors have written for him. Also making a noticeable, if brief, comic appearance is Annaleigh Ashford as a near-toothless prostitute who "wins" the dogfight and leads the fittingly harsh title song. Ashford, who is presently one of the anchors of Kinky Boots, made it clear last summer in Dogfight that she was a performer who was about to break through.

As for Pasek and Paul, they are a pair of songwriters whose scores you should be listening to. A Christmas Story seems unlikely to win big at this year's Tony Awards unless a couple hundred Tony voters sit down for four hours and listen, back-to-back, to the CDs of Matilda, Kinky Boots, Hands on a Hardbody and A Christmas Story that they received in the mail. Especially since the special "voters" edition of the latter includes "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out," the big showstopper featuring Caroline O'Connor and the rivetting preteen tapper Luke Spring. (This number was added to the show for the Broadway opening, and is not on the previously-recorded commercial CD.)

Tony or no, A Christmas Story and Dogfight suggest that Pasek and Paul will score big before they hit thirty.

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This Time [LM&MP]

Eclectic vocal albums featuring reimagined versions of pop music blending elements of jazz, soul and rock do not fall within the regular scope of this column — unless there are extenuating circumstances, that is. The extenuating circumstance in this particular case is the vocalist in question, one Lindsay Mendez. Yes, the wallflower from Dogfight who so compellingly sang her heart out at Second Stage and on the CD above. Mendez joins with pianist Marco Paguia for This Time to good effect. Among other things, it demonstrates that Mendez sings and swings in a manner that you wouldn't necessarily expect from her performances in Godspell and Dogfight.

For another taste of Mendez, you can currently check out her Elphaba at the Gershwin. You can also see Klena, her suitor in Dogfight, as Fiyero; the pair just went into Wicked this week. Apparently Joe Mantello, director of both musicals, thinks they are pretty special.

(Steven Suskin is author of "Show Tunes" as well as “The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations,” “Second Act Trouble,” the "Broadway Yearbook" series and the “Opening Night on Broadway” books. He can be reached at Ssuskin@aol.com.)