Calling all baseball fans!
OK, Gang, what do you call a cast that’s super talented? First base! And when you have kicky, lively choreography? Second base! And enough energy to go around? Third base! Bunch ‘em up! What do we have? A home run! I’m not even into baseball, but I sure had a night of laughs on opening night at the New Candlelight Theatre (NCT) in Ardentown, DE. Not very far from Philly, I promise you. What a way to open the new 2011-2012 season! If you happened to see THE FULL MONTY last season, seven of those characters (yes, I counted) are back on this magical stage for more wild ‘n’ crazy antics!
If you were around in 1955, you might recall seeing DAMN YANKEES when it first came out on Broadway. The novel it was based on is entitled, The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant, by Douglass Wallop. In 1956, DAMN YANKEES won seven TONY awards, including Best Musical. A memorable film version came out in 1958. Its setting takes place in Washington, DC in the 1950s when the Yankees were on top in major league baseball.
In our story, the Washington Senators (Ya Gotta Have Heart) are rather low on the totem pole and our hero (and I do mean HERO), aging Joe Boyd, would love nothing more than to see his losing team defeat those DAMN YANKEES! Applegate, the Devil (in men’s clothing) suddenly approaches him and offers a trade of joining the underdog to make this happen for Joe’s soul. Joe is only willing to sell his soul as long as an escape clause is added to the deal. “Sure, sure,” responds the slick, sneaky, conniving, mean, wretched, miserable, rotten Devil who is portrayed by Patrick O’Hara. Hear me now … Patrick plays him with such skill and humor that it’s almost scary. (I hope you’re a nice guy in real life, Pat!)
Joe leaves his wife, Meg (played by Janet Wilkie … lovely singing voice), and faster than Applegate can say, “Done deal,” Joe is transformed into young, athletic (and handsome) Joe Hardy (Chris Stevens). Play ball! Shy and unassuming, Joe realizes how much he misses his wife; hence, many things go awry. Enter Lola, the Devil’s sexy associate played by either Angela Bates Majewski, the choreographer, on opening night or by Kaylon Wetzel Acon. It’s Lola’s assignment to divert Joe’s attention with her beauty and seductive dancing (“Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets”!).
In all the mayhem and madness, the teammates couldn’t be more entertaining in their song and dance. They’re having a great time and we can feel it! No shrinking violets “up there”! Dear Director, you brought out the best in each individual and no one is holding back. Personally, I like to remember each for his/her own personality and performance. Thank you for making that happen. I must mention the role of the sports reporter, Gloria Thorpe, as played by Anastasia Bokas. She helped to keep the story moving along smoothly and swiftly. A joy to see … get thee to Broadway! And …Victoria Healy, in the role of Sister, one of Meg Boyd’s friends: what a wacky, crazy loony-bird you are! Loved your uninhibited spirit!
DAMN YANKEES spirals to an interesting outcome, overcoming all snags throughout. The Devil himself is no match for the strength of a loving relationship. Love endures; love always wins.
One last word: Since I’m not a huge fan of baseball, would it be too much trouble to create a little atmosphere among audience participants? How ‘bout some “peanuts, popcorn and Cracker Jacks”? Speaking of food, I’m reminding readers that this a dinner theatre, of which there are few around anymore.
P.S. Some of the performers serve as waiters and waitresses; it’s all so friendly and warm. So, to Colleen McGinnis who played Meg’s other friend, Doris, a job well done all around. Thank you!
Until the next show…
Book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop
Music and Lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross
Directed by Chris Alberts
September 16-October 23, 2011
New Candlelight Theatre
2208 Millers Rd
Ardentown, DE 19810