A Marine veteran-turned-actor who served with a helicopter squadron during two Iraq deployments will don a sea service uniform for his next trip to the stage.
He’s even working with aviators again. Sort of.
John Moeslein’s part of the cast of “Top Gun LIVE: A Maverick’s Homage,” a spoof/parody/love letter to the 1986 Tom Cruise classic. Before the show sets up shop in San Francisco in September for a brief run to kick off a planned California tour, it’ll be in San Diego at the Music Box on Aug. 27 for one night only.
“San Diego being such a military hub, I think there’s a lot for them to connect with,” Moeslein said of service members and fellow veterans. “Obviously, so many people in the military grew up with this film. This is something where these characters are iconic. Whether you directly relate to them or not, chances are there’s going to be one of these guys that you see a friend in.
“Like Iceman. You’re going to see him and say, ‘I know a guy like Iceman.’ Or, ‘I know a guy like Goose. He was a goofball.’ … Especially air wingers, but I think everybody in general.”
Moeslein, 36, left the Marines as a corporal after four years and headed to San Francisco in part to pursue writing. When the acting bug bit, he answered a 2009 casting call for another parody production — this one taking on 1991’s “Point Break,” arguably the peak of the bank-robbing-surfer film genre — on Craigslist.
He got the gig. He’s tackled other parts in the interim, including multiple short films and a small role in an episode of TNT’s “Murder in the First” procedural crime drama, and continues to write. He’s become an active member of Veterans in Film and Television, a nonprofit that helps past and present service members navigate the entertainment industry.
And now, he’s suddenly officer material, playing the roles of both Viper and Merlin in the stage show (first played by Tom Skerritt and Brian Robbins, respectively).
“During initial rehearsals, I would be kind of a stickler about some of the [military protocol] things,” said Moeslein, who served with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775. “But this is a comedy. We’re not keeping it 100 percent accurate to military life.
“I taught the guys in the crew to stand at attention, to stand at parade rest. I sort of tried to set the scene for them on how it would go if this was a proper military briefing. … Without the contrast, it doesn’t have the same humor, the same power.”
Moeslein didn’t land the Maverick role, but nobody else in the cast did, either — members of the audience are pulled onstage during the performance to read Cruise’s lines off cue cards. The producers encourage theater-goers to attend dressed as their favorite Cruise character; no specific instructions regarding beach volleyball getups were included, but the show is for an over-21 audience.
Moeslein said the “day-to-day newness” of the absurdist show makes it an enjoyable challenge, and that he draws often on the adapt-and-overcome mindset instilled by service to meet that challenge.
“What we’re doing is an homage to the film,” the Pittsburgh native said. “It is maybe not necessarily meant to touch your deepest emotions, but to tap into the parts that you didn’t realize were funny.”
Learn more about the show, including ticket details, here.