Recommended *** Today, as I listened to the overture of Light Opera Works revival of “Damn Yankees”, I was reminded that over fifty years ago, I was honored to share the stage at Glenbrook High School, double cast in the role of Applegate ( the Devil) with Frank Galati- wow! All these years and despite the length of this musical ( over two and a half hours), it still has a warm spot in the hearts of baseball fans and musical theater lovers.
Based on the book, “The Year The Yankees Lost The Pennant” by Douglas Wallop, who wrote the script along with George Abbott with music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, “Damn Yankees” is a story that many Cubs fans ( of which I am one) can react to. The main character in this story, Joe Boyd, a real estate salesman, who is in love with his Washington Senators ( this play was written in the fifties, so young people, this was a real team back in those days of yore) and would do anything to see them take the World Series prize away from the dreaded New York Yankees. In fact, he says he would sell his soul to the devil to see this take place, and voila, Applegate, who in fact is the devil appears to make him an offer he cannot refuse.
Think back to the legend of Faust, and you will get the idea of what we get to see. .
Not wanting to let it all hang out, this is a classic story of a man’s desire and dream, but of more importance the amount of love he has for his wife and in reality his life. Directed by Kevin Belie, who also does some exotic choreography on a set designed by Adam Veness, there are times that I even forgot that the original work was by Fosse as none of the “Fosse” steps are shown- this is in fact an original version of a show that is over fifty years old. Congratulations.
While “Damn Yankees” has many great memories for me and wonderful songs such as “Whatever Lola Wants”, “”Heart”, “Two Lost Souls”, and the lovely “Near To You” and “A Man doesn’t Know”, the play is very dated and very long ( add in the intermission and close to three hours) with some lag time that could easily be clipped. The cast is superb with the very sexy Erica Evans bringing something special to the role of Lola, Applegate’s lead “homewrecker”, Jenny Lamb doing a splendid job as Gloria Thorpe, the female reporter who hangs the “Shoeless Joe” name on him when he tries out for the club and a team of basemball players that are solid singers and dancers doing a bit more on dance then I am used to ( Bellie outdid himself on this one). Impressive characters were also brought to life by Sarah Blevins and Maggie Clennon Reberg as Sister and Doris ( Meg’s good friends) as well as Rick Rapp as Van Buren.
For those of you familiar with Light Opera Works, one of the highlights of their performances is that they do full orchestrations with a full orchestra under the direction of Roger L. Bingaman, filling the halls of Northwestern’s Cahn Auditorium with wonderful sounds. They also do great costumes ( Jesus Perez and Jane DeBondt, brining us back to the 50’s and the props ( Cassy Shilo) were about as real as one would expect. Even the rabbit ears on the old Tv ( okay, young people, you might want to Google “Rabbit Ears” as it is very hard to explain).
Wednesday, June 11th 2 p.m.
Fridays, June 13th at 8 p.m.
Saturday, June 14th at 8 p.m.
Sunday, June 15th at 2 p.m.
Tickets range from $34- $94 ( half price if under 21) and are available at www.Lightoperaworks.com or by calling 847-920-5360
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Damn Yankees”