Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Also see Patrick's review of Rumors
There is a new musical in town and it's appearing at Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture on Marina Boulevard. Back from Iraq celebrates the men and women of the U.S. military forces in a new, cool, and creative way. It's a high-voltage musical tribute to the "boots on the ground" lives of young of women and men coming to terms with their first war experiences during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Director and producer Zoe Conner has been working on this musical for two years, drawing on impressions from her younger brother, a U.S. Air Force Special Ops navigator. Connor has created an exciting 90-minute minute, no-intermission piece with music styles that run the gamut from hip hop to Broadway. There are thrilling rhythms, sounds, moves and characters in this show, honoring the young soldiers whoa re continually being put in harm's way in the Middle East. Back from Iraq is presented in 11 scenes with music by different composers, including local songsmiths like Ben Prince, Jonny Harper, Janis Wilson, Nate Riebli, and Jairo Vargas. The opening sequence features Bruce Ghent on two taiko drums and the cast of 14 young talents dressed in authentic desert soldier outfits. They march across the stage in precise drills.
In the first scene, "Get Your Blood Pumping" by Ben Prince does what the title proclaims with an effective beat. Following that are scenes which depict the invasion in Bagdad, flag ladies, and an IED bomb patrol. The finale features the cast as soldiers who have come back to their homes, though some are missing.
Outstanding is 17-year-old Nicholas Camminante in his first professional job, as Gung Ho. He has great stage presence and a voice to match. Anthony Maglio outstandingly plays the captain. He looks the part of a captain. Jesse Arnett, from the Central Valley, is splendid as a rapper. Makena Harootian, Patricia Lam, and Daniel Darrick do most of the excellent dancing, including a Middle Eastern dance. The impressive cast also includes Tavi Carpenter, Isabella Peregrina, Wilson Kamau, Aubrey Ankrum, Kevin Copps, and Josh Williams.
Back from Iraq is an inspiring, heartfelt picture of our soldiers in the Middle East. The production runs through September 30, 2017, at the Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, on Marina Blvd., San Francisco CA. For tickets fortmason.org/event/back-from-iraq-musical.