World War II-Set Musical Yank! Continues a March Toward Broadway, But More Likely Landing in 2012-13
By Kenneth Jones
Yank!, the musical story of a young American G.I. facing first love as he is swept into World War II, is aiming for a Broadway life in the 2012-13 season, Stuart Wilk, one of its lead producers told Playbill.com on Jan. 2.
The show by composer Joseph Zellnik and lyricist-librettist David Zellnik had an Off-Broadway run at York Theatre Company's home in spring 2010, and completed a monthlong workshop in fall 2011. The recent workshop and presentations — produced by The Old Globe Theatre by special arrangement with Fran and Barry Weissler and Wilk and his partners Maren Berthelsen, Pam Koslow and others — was directed by David Cromer (Off-Broadway's Adding Machine, Our Town, Broadway's The House of Blue Leaves).
"While it's the same story that people saw at the York, the authors and the director continue to go deeper into the story, deeper into the love story, deeper into World War II," Wilk said. "It comes off less an homage to musicals of the '40s than a bold musical in its own right."
Wilk said about five new songs are part of Yank's latest draft — "some really wonderful writing by Joe Zellnik and some dreamy lyrics by David Zellnik."
Discussions are ongoing about the commercial future of Yank!, which sheds light on a lesser known aspect of military life — the participation of gay and lesbian troops.
"We are in the midst of discussions about a Broadway life next season," Wilk said.
Here's how the producers bill the show: "Yank! tells the story of a young G.I. working for the real Army weekly Yank who faces the two scariest things he can imagine: world war… and first love. The show combines sweeping romance with the gritty reality of the war in the Pacific, with a score that harkens back to the lushness of classic Broadway musicals."
The fall 2011 developmental workshop of Yank! ran Oct. 20-Nov. 17 and included a private industry presentation of the show. The workshop cast included Ragtime Tony Award nominee Bobby Steggert (as Stu, the lead G.I.), Billy Elliot and Importance of Being Earnest veteran Santino Fontana (Mitch), pop star Nellie McKay (Helen), 2006 A Chorus Line alumnus Jeffrey Schecter (Artie), 2011 House of Blue Leaves resident Tally Sessions (Czechowski), Colt Prattes (Tennessee), Cory Michael Smith (Professor), Morgan Spector (Sarge), Jared Gertner (Melanie), Scott Barnhardt (Scarlett), Charles MacEarchern (Soldier 1), Adam Perry (Soldier 2, Interrogator), Cole Escola (India), Cody Williams (Cohen) and Brian Cali (Rotelli).
There was also a February 2011 Manhattan reading of the show featuring the York run's Steggert, who was a Best Featured Actor Tony nominee in 2010 for Ragtime.
The producers of Yank! are Maren Berthelsen, Pam Koslow, Stuart Wilk and Matt Schicker, Keith Degi, Hugh Hayes, Jim Kierstead, Sondra Healy/Shidan Majidi in association with Joe and Sandi Black.
In the spring 2010 York version of Yank!, Steggert played a 21st-century man who happens on the 1940s-era diary of a gay G.I. That story came to life, with Steggert embodying the soldier. The York production received seven Drama Desk nominations, including Outstanding Musical; two Outer Critics Circle nominations, including Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical; and two Lucille Lortel Award nominations, including Outstanding Musical.
Producers previously announced an aim to launch Yank! on Broadway in fall 2011, following revisions to the libretto. The show is an original creation, not based on source material.
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