Saddleback College’s “Dogfight” opened Friday night with Keivon Akbari and Paige Vanderwarker playing the starring roles of Rose Fenny and Eddie Birdlace. (Courtesy of the Saddleaback Arts Department)
If you like music and have an affinity for the 60s, then you might want to check out Saddleback College’s “Dogfight.” The musical surrounds the relationship between two young people in the midst of the Vietnam War. The production sheds light on this turbulent time through the eyes of young marine Eddie Birdlace, played by Keivon Akbari and love interest Rose Fenny, played by Paige Vanderwarker.
The opening scene begins on a bus in 1967 with the main character Eddie Birdlace returning from his deployment in Vietnam. The scene sets a somber tone that eventually transitions into a flashback to San Francisco circa 1963. The timeline stays consistent with the year 1963 until it unravels back into the opening scene of 1967.
Director Hal Landon makes note that the musical takes place on a monumental day in U.S. history on Nov. 21, 1963 in which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. However, the musical is set on a smaller scale, focusing on the perspective its small cast of characters.
“Our story happens on a smaller and more intimate scale, but the feelings that are awakened in our characters are so surprising and so powerful as to leave them fundamentally changed from that day forward,” states Landon in the Director’s Notes.
The story focuses on two characters that are very different from each other. Rose is presented as more of a shy and kind character, while Eddie embodies the tough and macho stereotype of a marine. It is through his relationship with Rose, that develops changes Eddie’s character.
Even though the musical is focused on a single day, the characters both develop throughout the musical. This proved to be a less than simple task for actors Paige Vanderwarker and Keivon Akbari whom believe to be very different from their characters.
“Normally I play the really weird, outgoing, bold characters and Rose is more mellow and shy—so that was definitely a big challenge for me,” said Vanderwarker.
Eddie is perceived as a tough marine throughout the musical, but Akbari’s favorite part of the character was his more sensitive side.
“I really relate to the sensitive side of it because I think when people first see me they think ‘he’s really tall and scary’ but then they meet me and realize ‘oh your not scary’,” said Akbari.
The cast was only given six weeks to prepare and despite it’s seemingly effortless performance, was faced with some challenges. One of which was building chemistry between the two main characters.
“My hardest part was developing chemistry with Keivon,” said Vanderwarker.
Their efforts appear to have been a success, considering that opening night was a sold out show. “Dogfight” will continue play nightly at 7:30 p.m. from Oct. 21 to Oct. 24