The boys in pink


Dutch Courage


Book by Barry Lowe

Music and Lyrics by Sean Peter

Directed by Fred C. L. Mann III

Musical Direction by Hayley Johnson

Wings Theatre Company (

154 Christopher Street

Equity Showcase (closed June 21, 2008)

Review by Michael D. Jackson


Dutch Courage, a musical concerning the plight of homosexuals in Amsterdam during WWII, is narrated by a Jewish character, Jakob (Daryl Brown), the partner of a transvestite/drag performer named Greta (Kenny Wade Marshall), who uses her night club, Chez Sissy, as a cover for resistance work. A collection of gay men pose as waiters and entertainers while sleeping with the enemy to gain information, blowing up the Amsterdam records office and derailing attempts to cross-check forged identification papers. It’s all about survival and the gang valiantly works to keep their heads above water before the Nazis catch on and inevitably ship them off to a concentration camp. Despite the odds, the group sticks together and insists that they will survive with their dignity intact.


There is a great sense of nobility in this show, but something terrible has happened on the trip from its celebrated Australian premiere to its Wings debut. What appears in the underground space is a tacky, tattered, disjointed production. Although choreographed well enough, the overall direction by Fred C. L. Mann III cannot begin to help the meandering script of hazy history. We are asked to suspend our disbelief that the German Officer (Jared Joplin) can believe that Greta is actually a woman and even engage in an ongoing flirtatious relationship with her. How is it then that another German soldier sees through her right away?  And with the direction, we are expected to accept that private information exchanged between the gay men cannot be heard by a German soldier standing two yards away from them. Then there is the bigger problem: that not much happens for most of the show. There is a lot of talk about how the gang is going to help the war effort, but little demonstration of their actions – besides putting on a good cabaret act.


The cast, in general, are a brave lot, giving one hundred percent to this piece, even if they sometimes come across as over-projecting their emotions beyond reality – even though this is a musical with a heightened sense of reality. Certain songs are presented as show biz turns, presenting wide themes that apply to the play in the way that much of Cabaret handles musical numbers. Others are book scene songs utilizing the entire ensemble; the occasional love duet between the German soldier Kurt and Jopie, one of the resistance gang (Frank Galgano and Matthew Napoli respectively); and a weighty number of solos for Greta. One of Greta’s songs, “Getcha,” performed as if in rehearsal, was extraneous, but the other songs helped to serve the slim story and kept the production from completely sinking.


The play teaches very little about the history of gay men persecuted by the Nazis. A few basics are there, but these are the same basics we learned in greater detail from plays like Bent or Richard Plant’s The Pink Triangle. If there is to be a “pink triangle” musical, then it must tell us more than a general and implausible story. If the musical were to be a love story between a gay man and a Nazi, then the entire thrust of the story should be focused on the plight of those characters with WWII Amsterdam as the backdrop. For now, the focus has not been found and it is impossible to warm up to any of the thinly drawn characters. That being said, emerging from the muck, like a subject from an Otto Dix painting, is the formidable character of Greta, singing and swaggering in unfortunate costumes by Craig Lowry, trying to hold the entire enterprise together. Kenny Wade Marshall makes a grand attempt, but the material is impossible to lift up.


The basic set by Fred Mann and Anthony Galaska is dignified by a flashing sign announcing “Chez Sissy,” but is otherwise under designed and cheap. Galaska also handles the lighting design, which is only basic outside of a few flourishes. Craig Lowery’s costumes are a disappointment and do not help the actors to look their best. Music direction by Hayley Johnson seemed to do the job, though the synthesized support only added to the downtrodden quality of the entire production.  


Box Score:


Writing: 0

Directing: 1

Acting: 1

Sets: 1

Costumes: 0

Lighting/Sound: 0


Copyright 2008 by Michael D. Jackson


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