'Damn Yankees' Reprise! to Star Derricks, Taylor, White
Jason Alexander, new artistic director of Reprise! Broadway's Best, announced that Cleavant Derricks, Meg Gillentine, Amelia McQueen, Ken Page, Ty Taylor, Lillias White and Jackee Harry would head up the cast of Damn Yankees, the company's second production of its 2007-2008 season.
Damn Yankees will perform Tuesday, November 6 through Sunday, November 25 (opening November 7) at UCLA's Freud Playhouse, playing an additional week of performances after subscription. For tickets, please call the UCLA Central Ticket Office at 310-825-2101 or visit www.reprise.org.
Damn Yankees, which has music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, book by George Abbott & Douglass Wallop, and is based on the novel "The Year The Yankees Lost the Pennant," by Douglass Wallop, won seven 1956 Tony Awards including Best Musical. Alexander will direct the production, Reprise! musical director Gerald Sternbach conducts, and the choreography is by Lee Martino, who just choreographed the recent Reprise! On Your Toes. Damn Yankees is presented by special arrangement with Jeff Richards and James Fuld.
The authors of this classic musical have given Reprise! permission to update and adapt this classic musical and bring it forward in time from the mid-fifties to 1981, Los Angeles, where Joe (Ken Page), a middle aged man is endlessly frustrated that his beloved Dodgers are constantly thwarted by those well, damn Yankees.
"Desperate, Joe makes a deal with the devil, Applegate (Cleavant Derricks), to exchange his soul for becoming a youthful baseball star (Ty Taylor) leading his team towards the pennant. In the battle of fantasy vs. true love, Joe finds he misses his wife Meg (Armelia McQueen) more and more when Applegate sends in his secret weapon the irresistible temptress Lola (Meg Gillentine). 'Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets' she sings but does she? And does Joe lead Dodger Blue to victory before the devil owns him for eternity?" explain press notes.
Damn Yankees first opened on Broadway in 1955, just one year after The Pajama Game, created by the Yankees creative team, took Broadway by storm. That team was the new composer-lyricist duo Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, veteran book writer and director George Abbott, and producers Harold Prince, Robert Griiffith and Frederick Brisson. Damn Yankees solidified Bob Fosse's career as a choreographer, along with its two stars Gwen Verdon and Ray Walston. The original Damn Yankees ran 1,019 performances, followed by a London production, and a very popular film, directed by Abbott and Stanely Donen, featuring Tab Hunter and many of the original Broadway cast.
Damn Yankees had a successful Broadway revival in 1994, which starred Bebe Neuwirth and Victor Garber as Applegate, and was directed by Jack O'Brien and choreographed by Rob Marshall, who went on to make the film of Chicago. Garber was succeeded by Jerry Lewis, who then starred in a national tour and the London production.
Damn Yankees is the second attraction of the 2007-2008 Reprise! Broadway's Best season. It will be followed by Li'l Abner February 5 to 17, 2008 (opening February 5) and Flora the Red Menace May 6 to 18 (opening May 7).
Damn Yankees will preview on Tuesday, November 6 and will open on Wednesday, November 7. Show times are Tuesday through Friday evenings at 8PM (No performance Thursday November 22); Saturdays at 2PM & 8PM, and Sundays at 2PM & 7PM through Sunday, November 18. Thanksgiving week performance is Tuesday-Wednesday 8PM, Friday-Saturday 2PM & 8PM and Sunday, November 25 at 2PM.
Preview tickets for November 6 are $60. All other performances are $70 - $75. A limited number of on stage seats will be available for each performance for $35. Student/Senior rush is $20, 15 minutes before showtime (subject to availability). For tickets, please call the UCLA Central Ticket Office at 310/825-2101. For further information on Reprise! Broadway's Best, please visit www.reprise.org.
Cleavant Derricks (Applegate) created the role of James Thunder Early for Michael Bennett's Broadway production of Dreamgirls; he received a Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for his performance and a L.A. Drama Critic Circles Award for the vocal arrangements. Most recently he appeared at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Sleeping Beauty Wakes. Cleavant began his career in gospel, and then went on to receive rave reviews in Vinnette Carroll's Broadway shows Your Arm's Too Short To Box With God, But Never Jam Today and When Hell Freezes Over I'll Skate. Derricks was also the composer and musical director of Skate which aired on PBS. He also appeared on Broadway in Bob Fosse's Big Deal (Tony and Drama Desk Nominations for Best Actor) and the recent Brooklyn, the national tour of The Full Monty, and in Like Jazz at the Mark Taper Forum.
Meg Gillentine (Lola) Broadway credits include Cats (Cassandra), The Frogs starring Nathan Lane and Fosse and performed "Steam Heat," "Nowadays," and "Big Spender" with Ann Reinking in the PBS telecast. Other credits include the film and the Los Angeles company of The Producers starring Jason Alexander and Martin Short and regionally at Arena Stage in Damn Yankees (Lola, Helen Hayes Award) and Cabaret (Sally Bowles, Helen Hayes Nomination) and Gladys in The Pajama Game at Baltimore Center Stage.
Ken Page (Joe Boyd) created the role of Old Deuteronomy in Cats on Broadway and in video. Other New York theatre credits include It Ain't Nothin But The Blues, Ain't Misbehavin' (Original Cast Drama Desk Award/Best Actor), The Wiz, Guys And Dolls, The Wizard of Oz, A Christmas Carol, Call Me Madam, Out Of This World, The Pajama Game (City Center Encores), The Threepenny Opera, and Anyone Can Whistle (Carnegie Hall). He appeared in Los Angeles in Follies (Reprise!), and in the West End in Children of Eden and My One And Only (Concert, London Palladium).
Armelia McQueen (Meg) Broadway debut was in the original cast of Ain't Misbehavin (Theater World Award). She most recently appeared in South Pacific at the Hollywood Bowl with Brian Stokes Mitchell in the role of "Bloody Mary", a role she performed alongside stars Robert Goulet, Michael Nouri, Jack Jones, and Howard Keel. She also is a two-time nominee for the Cable Ace Award for "Best Actress in a Comedy Series" for Disney Channel's "Adventures in Wonderland". Her film credits include Life, Bulworth, Jerry Maguire, Ghost, Action Jackson, Sparkle, and the soon to be released Days of Wrath, and Cordially Invited.
Ty Taylor (Joe Hardy) has appeared in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Grease, and We Will Rock You and is heard on the album of Jason Robert Brown's "Songs for a New World." He was the guitarist and vocalist of R&B group "Dakota Moon" appeared on the reality TV show "Rock Star: INXS," and was then asked by Dave Navarro to sing lead vocals for his band "Camp Freddy." He has toured with Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Macy Gray, and Fiona Apple.
Lesli Margherita (Gloria Thorpe) starred it the TV "Fame LA" directed by Kenny Ortega, and also appeared on "Charmed," "NYPD Blue," "The District," "The King of Queens," "Thieves," "JAG," "Fighting Fitzgeralds," "Nikki," "Kristin," and this summer's "On The Lot," produced by Steven Spielberg. Her films include The Number 23, directed by Joel Schumacher, and upcoming in Boogeyman 2 this winter. Lesli is also heard on several animated films, most recently Disney's Cinderella 3. Theatre credits include Beehive (VMT), Anything Goes (MTW), Zorba (Reprise), Aida (Theater League), Reefer Madness, Grave White Way, West Side Story, Man Of La Mancha (Music Circus), Grease (McCoy Rigby), A Chorus Line, and Gypsy.
Lillias White (Dory) won the Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, Peoples Choice Award and The Outer Critics Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her 1997 role as Sonja in The Life. She also appeared in New York in Romance in Hard Times (Obie Award), the Broadway productions of How to Succeed in Business, Once on This Island, Rock n' Roll: The First 5,000 Years (Aretha Franklin), Barnum, Carrie and Dreamgirls, as well as the off Broadway productions of Crowns, The Vagina Monologues, Waiting for Godot, The Princess & The Black-Eyed Pea, and Dinah Was. Lillias White has also gone on the national and international tours for Dreamgirls, Ain't Misbehavin', Tintypes and The Wiz.
Jackée Harry (Sister) is an Emmy Award-winning and two-time NAACP Image Award winner, best known for her role as Sandra Clark on "227" and as Tia Mowry's adopted mother, Lisa Landry, on "Sister, Sister." Harry began her career on Broadway in A Broadway Musical, Eubie! and The Wiz. She played the role of Lily Mason on "Another World," acting alongside the then-unknown Morgan Freeman. She co-starred with Oprah Winfrey in the television miniseries "The Women of Brewster Place." She also appeared on television in Ladybugs, To Tell the Truth, Hollywood Squares, and as Vanessa on Everybody Hates Chris.
Photos (top-bottom): Cleavant Derricks, Meg Gillentine, Armelia McQueen and Lillias White