Pip Mushin talks DOGFIGHT

It’s November 21, 1963.

On the eve of their deployment to a small but growing conflict in Southeast Asia, three young Marines set out for one final boys’ night of debauchery, partying and maybe a little trouble. But, when Corporal Eddie Birdlace meets Rose, an awkward and idealistic waitress whom he enlists to win a cruel bet with his fellow recruits, she rewrites the rules of the game and teaches him the power of love and compassion.

The hauntingly beautiful musical, Dogfight, by Pasek and Paul (Dear Evan Hansen, La La Land) and Peter Duchan, was praised by countless critics and nominated for numerous awards, winning the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical. Based on the 1991 Warner Brothers film, Dogfight takes audiences on a romantic and heartbreaking theatrical journey that stays with you long after the performance. Now, Melbourne audiences have the change to travel back to the 60s and experience the story for themselves.

Pip Mushin

Enter Pip Mushin. A graduate of WAAPA and VCA, Pip’s directorial repertoire spans a diverse range of productions, showcasing his mastery in the world of music theatre. Most recently, he was the co-writer and co-director of Midnight: The Cinderella Musical, which made its world premiere in Melbourne. He has an impressive list of directorial and acting credits across the country, and as resident director, Pip has worked on shows such as The Book of Mormon, Evita, and Fiddler on the Roof.

Pip is directing Dogfight for Theatrical, a community theatre company based in Melbourne’s South East suburbs. Theatrical are dedicated to making live theatre accessible and enjoyable for all, creating welcoming community-centred theatre experience, involving aspiring performers and individuals skilled in acting, singing, dancing, set building, and more.

What drew you to Dogfight?

Pip: I love the music of the composers Pasek and Paul. Their outstanding repertoire includes Dear Evan Hansen, The Greatest Showman and La La Land. Dogfight is one of their first musicals and is rarely performed, which is surprising in a way as it’s such a strong and engaging piece of musical theatre. This is a great opportunity to direct a rarely produced show with such a wonderful score and so brilliantly crafted. A hidden gem, so to speak.

How is this different to previous shows you have directed?

Pip: In terms of musical theatre, the premise of Dogfight is just so unusual, so original. It starts off with a rather disgusting, chauvinistic ritual and turns into a heartfelt, beautiful love story. That’s the charm of the piece. That from such a confrontational premise comes such a moving and heartfelt love story.

The show explores some sensitive and thought-provoking themes. How did you work with the cast and creative team to handle these?

Pip: The cast were awesome from the get go. They came into rehearsals with a great understanding of the show and its subject matter, which helped a lot. Then, together with Adriana Pannuzzo, our wonderful choreographer/assistant director, we carefully mapped out a schedule that ensured we didn’t overload them with too much sensitive matter at once.  Earlier in rehearsals we focused more on the production numbers and busier scenes involving more cast. As we progressed we started tackling some of the more challenging themes. By that stage the cast were well and truly immersed in their characters, which made it easy to dive into the more sensitive areas.

The cast of Dogfight

What is your favourite song in the show?

Pip: ‘Before it’s Over’, sung by Rose. It’s about how the revolting ritual that Rose has unwittingly been a victim of, has changed her. However Rose decides the change will be a positive one and wont allow the experience to defeat her. In a way it becomes cathartic for her. She manages to turn it into a positive and begins to see life through a whole new prism, no longer allowing herself to be defined by what others think of her. It’s a hauntingly beautiful song, stunningly performed by Antoinette Davis.

As a director, what is the main message you hope the audience takes away from watching Dogfight?

Pip: The musical covers so many themes… discrimination, cruelty, misogyny, friendship, forgiveness, acceptance, romance. I guess for me though the ones that I feel will really resonate with audiences, are those of empathy and compassion. It’s only through empathy and compassion that both Rose and Eddie become drawn to each other and allow their true selves to flourish. These are such universal themes and of course are as relevant today as they ever were.

Dogfight is playing now at Chapel off Chapel.

Click here for tickets and more information.

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator, and is the current Deputy Editor-in-Chief of AussieTheatre.com. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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