Directed by David Zak
Musical Direction by Robert Ollis
Produced by Pride Films and Plays
At the Main Stage, Chicago
Tuneful with loads of heart fuels World War II gay musical
Under the tight direction of legendary Chicago director David Zak, Under A Rainbow Flag is a well-sung and heartwarming world premiere chamber musical now playing at Lakeview’s Main Stage. Loosely based on the real-life story of a WWII naval corpsman Jon Phillips (now living in Evanston and present at the show’s opening), Under A Rainbow Flag is a fast-paced, energetic musical about a group of soldiers who meet on a transport train heading west from Chicago and about the choices made during and after the war. Quietly utilizing a private language based on female names and references to perpetuate their gay lifestyle, this group defied the norms of 40’s society even in wartime while serving in the military.
Phillips (the golden voiced Sam Button-Harrison) meets Gibbs (Nicholas Stockwell), Russell (James Nedrud), and Stefano (Jordan Phelps) on the train. Stefano is an Army surgeon heading to the Pacific while Russell is an auto mechanic stationed in California. Phillips falls in love with Gibbs but Gibbs has met a women (Kyrie Anderson), the daughter of Gibbs’ commanding officer who has her own agenda. This musical has a book filled with empathetic characters in plausible situations as we see them in their private moments when they could act as ‘gay’ as them want.
The situations are enhanced and delivered by the terrific score and lyrics by proliofic composer Leo Schwartz. He gives the music a 40’s swing, be-bop and jazz sound and feel. He infuses the musical with much Broadway styles including cute ditties and fun filled self depreciating humorous tunes that flaunt the gay essence of each soldier. Schwartz’s complex score also contains several strong anthems and bluesy numbers. We hear emotional love songs as well as haunting angst-ridden songs.
The cast of mostly younger non-Equity players features several strong singers who also can act including Nick Stockwell, Jordon Phelps and the terrific comic presence from James Nedrud. But I was particularly impressed by the acting and singing by Sam Button-Harriosn whose performance as Phillips anchored the show. We love these guys and we celebrate their courage and determination.
Under A Rainbow Flag is a delightful, light-weight musical that explores the various types of love that gay men endured in those closeted-days during WWII. This show is a tribute to the wholesomeness and heart of gay men. It celebrates the essence of being gay with a high-energy expression. It contains humor, angst, love, and hope as those early brave souls were determined to live in truth. This is a fun show that could use a trim and more authentic military uniforms but it delivers a well-sung tribute to gay veterans all around bravery. It is a worthy new musical that begs an audience.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
At the Main Stage, 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL, www.pridefilmsandplays.com, tickets $20 – $25, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through April 21, 2013
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