BWW Reviews: 3D Theatricals' DAMN YANKEES Boasts Miles of HEART
Damn Yankees/book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop/music & lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross/directed by Alan Souza/choreographed by Dana Solimando/3D Theatricals/through July 27 at Plummer Auditorium, Fullerton/August 2-10 at Redondo beach, Performing Arts Center
Belonging to the Golden Age of Broadway musicals, Damn Yankees opened in New York in 1955, winning 7 Tony Awards and was made into a feature film in 1958, starring its original Tony winners Ray Walston and Gwen Verdon. In fact, Damn Yankees sparked the long-time fruitful collaboration between Verdon and choreographer Bob Fosse. Legendary stuff! Now in a dazzling revival at 3D Theatricals in Fullerton, America's number one sport baseball - well, in the 50s anyway - is given a finely honed. demonically pleasurable treatment...the perfect summer entertainment.
What made Damn Yankees special was its great music by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross who had also penned the highly successful Pajama Game and its then novel approach, with book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop, to combine a heartwarming all American small-town story with fantasy and all of the oversized splashy elements that come with it. The plot concerns an aging baseball fanatic Joe Boyd (Robert Hoyt), who had always dreamed of winning the Pennant for his team the Washington Senators against Major League champs the Yankees. When sitting in couch potato fashion in his Hannibal, Mo living room watching the Senators get defeated once more, he declares, "I would sell my soul if I could only play and help win the Pennant." Up from Hades pops Applegate (Jordan Lamoureux), right out of the legend of Faust, and offers Joe a deal, one that he finds hard to refuse. Applegate makes him young again, calling him Joe Hardy (Cameron Bond) and sends him off to try out for the Senators. Never realizing how much he will miss his wife (Cynthia Ferrer), Joe accepts the pact, knowing full well that there is a time limit to fulfill, after which his soul belongs to Applegate. Of course, Joe knocks a few out of the park, makes the team as a winning player, but not to the satisfaction of local reporter Gloria Thorpe (Chelsea Emma Franko) who is suspicious of Joe's origins and credentials in baseball. Joe soon gets homesick, returns home, unrecognizable as Joe Hardy and attempts to rent a room from his wife, to be closer to her. Applegate, in an effort to win back Joe, brings in ageless temptress from Hell Lola (Alexis Carra) to cast a magic spell over him ("Whatever Lola Wants"). They do sort of fall for each other, but faithful Joe cannot love anyone but his wife, so nothing really ever comes of it except a comraderie ("Two Lost Souls") to get Applegate off both of their backs. There's indeed a happy ending. Joe helps the team win the Pennant, he returns back to his former self and Applegate doesn't have a chance in h--- ...no pun intended.
Prolific director Alan Souza has cast the play to the letter, down to the chorus of baseball players who play ball, spit tobacco and sing and move splendidly, whether on or off the field, to the dazzling fast-paced choreography of Dana Solimando. It's hard not to think of Fosse when you watch the crisp movements, so Solimando was obviously influenced by the original Fossesque style. Bond makes a dynamite squeaky-clean Joe Hardy. Joe's passion for the sport is ferociously displayed by Bond, whose great singing voice conquers all. Equally fine is Hoyt as the elder Joe, also displaying a dynamic vocal instrument. Carra is super sensationally sizzling as Lola: sexy, sensuously seductive with every glance, every step, every breath. Lamoureux makes Applegate so childishly and deliciously playful that it is difficult not to root for him. Ssssss... Ferrer is a consistently dandy actress and does beautiful work as Meg Boyd ("Near to You"), as does Franko as Gloria, whose "Shoeless Joe" is a real crowd-pleaser like the game itself. Praise as well to Tamara Zook, Karla Franko, Joe Hart, David Kirk Grant and the rest of the fabulous ensemble.
Don't miss Damn Yankees at Fullerton's Plummer Auditorium through July 27 and then in Redondo August 2-10! It's a musical like no other that truly captures the American spirit and its fanciful desire for magic, imagination and the wicked unknown. It's all for fun, light yet as devilishly infectious as a hot summer breeze! Who knows what will happen next?
Opening night was a real treat as award-winning NY cop/classically trained tenor Daniel Rodriguez sang the "Star Spangled Banner" at the top. Play ball!
(photo credit: Lily Lim)
(DY photo credit: Isaac James Creative)