Meteor Theatre, 1 Victoria Street, Hamilton

29/11/2019 - 14/12/2019

Production Details

Hamilton audiences have grown quite accustomed in recent years to seeing high quality musical theatre performed to professional standards by talented locals, and the latest offering is pushing the bar higher once again. Dogfight, produced by Bold Theatre, is a confronting, haunting, heartbreaking and deeply moving tale about six young US Marines about to be sent to war in Vietnam in 1963.

On their last night in San Francisco, they engage in a tradition – the Dogfight – where each soldier competes to bring an ‘ugly’ girl to a party. Against this backdrop of arrogance and misogyny, the show follows the complex relationship between one marine, Eddie Birdlace, and his date, Rose, and the ensuing emotional journey both characters take when Rose discovers the game: bitterness, anger, pity, compassion, empathy and forgiveness. 

Written by Benji Pasek and Justin Paul in 2004, Dogfight has only been seen once in New Zealand, making it a natural choice for Bold Theatre, who have been committed to bringing rarely performed theatrical works to Waikato audiences. Co-founder Charlotte Issac said, “Dogfight speaks to many issues around gender equality and relationships that we’re still addressing today. These young men do awful things and treat women horribly, but they do so because they’ve been taught no better and their behaviour has been institutionalised.”

The show also sees the creative team of David Sidwell, director, and Nick Braae, musical director, join forces for the third time in 2019. Sidwell is relishing the opportunity to work on a musical whose messages are so pertinent and layered. “On the one hand, it’s a story about what happens when a group of men are told they’re bulletproof and that their actions have no consequences. On the other hand, there is a beautiful and heartbreaking story about what happens when a young woman, Rose, challenges them on this behaviour. It’s not only about what it means to be a good man or a good woman, but a good person. There’s no guide for how this show should unfold, given it so rarely appears on stages worldwide. I’m excited at being able to shape the show in the intimate space of the Meteor Theatre.”

While many people might not recognise the composer’s names, the sounds of Pasek and Paul will be familiar to many – the duo wrote the songs for the smash Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen, as well as the films The Greatest Showman, La La Land, and the new songs for Aladdin.

Braae says, “This is a demanding show of the singers and the seven-piece ensemble – there’s no hiding in the ensemble, and it’s some of the trickier orchestral parts we’ve played in a while. I’m so fortunate to be able to work with such a talented local cast who are going to bring this magical music to life. And to hear a group of young men sing these four-part vocal harmonies … it’s going to be stunning!”

Dogfight continues Bold Theatre’s innovative, novel, and, well, bold approach to staging shows in Hamilton, and local audiences do not want to miss the many familiar faces onstage, all of whom are taking their talents in a new creative direction.

The Meteor Theatre  
29 November to 14 December 2019
Tickets available from


Eddie Birdlace - Patrick Ward

Rose Fenny - Hannah Doherty

Bernstein - Jonathan Hawthorn

Boland - Zac Clarke

Marcy - Courteney Mayall

Fector - Alex Pelham-Waerea

Stevens - Zac Crowley

Gibbs - Adam Nachowitz

Mama - K-M Adams

Ruther Two Bears - Tu Maia Carbone-Curtis

Suzette/Chippy - Jessican Ruck-Nu'u

Peggy - Megan Goldsman

Librarian - Sophie Nairn

Hazel - Liberty Jack

Big Tony - Creed Fletcher

Waiter/Drag Queen/Lounge Singer/Pete/Sergeant - Nick Wilkinson



Director: David Sidwell

Musical Director: Nick Braae

Producer: Bold Theatre (Charlotte Isaac, Aaron Chesham and Ray Powell)

Director’s Assistant: Nicole Hardy
Stage Manager: Nicole Hardy
Assistant Stage Managers: Malia Otukolo-Johnson & Annah Jacobs
Production Co-ordinator: Jenny Parham
Costume Design: Maria Eaton & Claire Field
Wardrobe Team: Vicki Buchanan (Head Dresser) & Holly Craggs
Hair and Makeup Design: Tulloulah Maghini
Hair and Makeup Team: Ella Travaglia (Head) & Emerald Tregilgas
Props: Annah Jacobs
Set Design: David Sidwell & Aaron Chesham
Set Build: Adrian Holroyd
Lighting Designer: Aaron Chesham
Sound Designer: Ben Mannell
Head Mech: Guy Coker
Lighting Operator: James Smith
Followspot Operators: Tom Smith, Dave Smith & Lucy Sidwell
Sound Operator: Maddy Barnsdall
Marketing and Programme: Ray Powell
Photography: Mark Hamilton



Piano - Nick Braae
Guitars - Jake Clarke
Bass Guitar - Steve Smith
Drums - Darryn Redshaw
Percussion - Kaleesha Messent
Violin - Kartika Sulistiowati
Cello -  Elena Morgan and Yotam Levy

Theatre , Musical ,

Stars in the making

Review by Jan-Maree Franicevic 30th Nov 2019

Confession time: when I was twelve, in a Lower Hutt cinema with my two best friends, I fell completely into goofy, start struck fangirl love with River Phoenix. I followed his career with a keen eye and I was devastated when at 27 he passed. I own most of his films on DVD and – when I snatch a rare quiet moment – I will crank one out and get a fix.

I do have a copy of Dogfight but it isn’t my favourite, so it’s not had an outing in possibly the last half of this decade. When I was booked to review this new production from uber-theatre whiz kid producers BOLD Theatre, I restrained myself from a refresher screening. 

I am pretty excited; my date and I are packed tighter than a cup of brown sugar into The Meteor’s black box, shoulder to shoulder with a capacity crowd of Hamilton theatre royalty for opening night.

An immaculate set (designed by director David Sidwell and BOLD principal Aaron Chesham) greets us; it’s an L-shape, featuring a stage mezzanine which also houses the 7-piece orchestra led by Musical Director Nick Braae.

It’s 1963, eight years into the Vietnam War. We meet our cast of young Marines, off to fight in that war. Thirteen weeks of basic training done, this is their last night of drinking and debauchery before the off! San Francisco is the town, and these young’uns – wet behind the ears and fit to the reference; ‘young, dumb and full of…’ are setting up for the dogfight.

The dogfight is the meet-cute, if I can be daring and call it that. It’s a game: each guy puts money in the kitty to compete – get out and get yourself the ugliest date for the night; win and the kitty is yours. Yep, all the very best of white, male America has gone into devising such a game. But it’s the 60s – people still think smoking is not detrimental to their health and, in America, race crimes and misogyny are par for the (somewhat unchanging) course.

So, we have our unpleasant premise for a romance and we do see a glimmer of something close to charm as Eddie Birdlace (Patrick Ward) happens upon Rose (Hannah Doherty), a comely waitress in her Mama’s diner. Dressed in marshmallow pink with wanting eyes and a warm smile, she sings like a bird; Birdlace zeroes in and talks her into the party … and so the night unfolds.

Eddie tries to back out of taking Rose to the dogfight however she, dressed in her very best maroon party frock, is adamant (of course she is, she thinks she’s going to a party).

The dogfight! Marcy (show-stealingly well played by Courtenay Mayall) and her Marine date Bolan (Zac Clarke) have made a deal to split the money; it’s a given she will win him the kitty, she has epically bad teeth (my pick for prop pf the year and credited to Alan Isaac, John Wilkins and Barrie Todd).

Super-talent Nick Wilkinson enters here as the club singer, also charged with rating the ‘dogs’. He fills the role well and absolutely steals centre stage from the mezzanine where he croons with his score cards. Though unintentional, I’m sure, I am reminded of Paul Newman’s first acting gig – the one with the samovar (Google it).

Rose drinks too much, gets crook and is hurling in the bathroom when she overhears Marcy and Boland fighting over the prize money. She catches on to the game; delivers a stage slap, shouts insults and storms off home. Eddie is forlorn, his friends fail to recognise that though and party on. 

What makes a man, who knows he has done something bad, go back for more? Glutton for punishment or morbidly keen to see how far he can go? The latter; he goes all the way in the end, just FYI. Rose transitions further into the role of mid-century doormat, scribbles her address and asks him to write but he rips up her address before the bus comes. Sigh.

Fast track to the front line. A starkly graphic war scene sees Eddie stripped of buddies, all falling to the enemy. He returns to San Francisco a broken man, spat on in the street by peaceniks – it is the time of the season for loving; flower power.

Thanks goodness then, for comely Rose, still wrapped in her marshmallow pink waitress uniform; yes he never wrote, but she welcomes him home all the same. Lucky guy. I suspect that he hasn’t a clue how lucky he is at all. Scene.

Hannah Dohety’s Rose is doubtless the star of the show. I want to shake her until the curls fall out of her hair, so strong is my relationship with her by show’s end. There is a bright future for Hannah, she really is an A-game musical actor. There are definitely stars in the making across the company and if I have to name one it would be Jessica Ruck-Nu’u, who is going places fast! 

I want to heap praise on the production, and I will. Great music: Nick Braae is, as always, a star – he leads capably as always and does a great job, as does his orchestra. Maria Eaton and Claire Field have done great things with costume design, very on point to the period and all well-fitted to the players, and there is a visible care in the detail; those little white gloves, the correct heels, hats and purses. Glorious!

Aaron Chesham’s lighting design offers the right level of impactful support to the story; I love the projections. Ben Mannell is a wizard of sound design – I have said the same before of him: great job!

Part of BOLD Theatre’s ethos is to foster local talent. This young cast is impressively local, and very young. I think it is great that director David Sidwell has chosen to cast younger players in those lead roles of the Marine buddies; there could have been a loss of some of the ingenuity of the script, had older, more experienced actors played them.

The energy of the ensemble of Marines is incomparable and they all deliver enthusiastic performances. Of note, Fector, who is played by Alex Pelham-Waerea: he has a voice that could stop you in the street and a great, open face filled with expression. The boys do well. I can see how delighted they are to be on stage and that fills me with warmth. Their talent is doubtless, though they are still to embody the polish which experience will afford them over time. I look forward to seeing them on stage as they grow through their careers. 

There is always going to be a challenge mining the unspoken depths of performance from greener stock. With David Sidwell’s background of critically acclaimed hits across a range of musical storylines, I expect big things when I see his name on a poster. His work is definitely sound here; perhaps a heavier hand in shaping the nuance of inner conflict within his young cast of Marines would take the story squarely into that edgy, emotional place where breath-taking musical theatre dwells.

I agree with my date that I will make a priority of returning to see the show again towards the end of the run. I can watch good theatre (like a good film) again and again and again.

Again BOLD Theatre brings Hamilton world class entertainment. River Phoenix, eat your heart out.  


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