Review: DAMN YANKEES at Desert Theatricals

Desert Theatricals DAMN YANKEES: A Devil, A Seductress, and A Young Ballplayer compete for star power – It’s a Hell of a ride!

By: Apr. 06, 2024
Review: DAMN YANKEES at Desert Theatricals
Get Access To Every Broadway Story

Unlock access to every one of the hundreds of articles published daily on BroadwayWorld by logging in with one click.

Existing user? Just click login.

DAMN YANKEES is a 1955 musical comedy with a book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop, music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. The story is a modern retelling of the Faust legend set during the 1950s in Washington, D.C., during a time when the New York Yankees dominated Major League Baseball. It is based on Wallop's 1954 novel The Year The Yankees Lost The Pennant.

The show ran for 1,019 performances in its original Broadway production. With iconic memorable tunes that continue to prove each production number is better than the last.

Directed and, as usual, flawlessly choreographed by Ray Limon.  I can’t count the number of times I thought to myself, “ That’s my favorite production number”.  The attention to detail staging, the choreography, and the exemplary cast made the on-stage energy palpable.  He definitely hit a home run.

Much of the excitement and momentum is due to the live musicians this particular production company is noted for using. No pre-recorded Karaoke garbage for this creative Limon/Carr endeavor. “Keepin’ it real, Boys!”.  More about the orchestra later.

This Mid-Century Modern story is simple. Middle-aged real estate agent Joe Boyd (Michael Hamlin) is a long-suffering fan of the pathetic Washington Senators baseball team. His wife, Meg Boyd, (Joanne Moser) laments this openly.  After she has gone to bed, he sits up late, grumbling that if the Senators just had a "long ball hitter" they could beat "those damn Yankees".   A perfect example to be careful what you wish for!

Moser as Meg has decent acting appeal and the role is the heart (and soul) of the show. Moser’s impeccable dancing grace takes away from the old-fashioned 1950s housewife character which the other ladies of the ensemble seem to embody.  She starts the show's curtain-rise opening production number, “Six Months Out Of Every Year”, without much punch. Her vocals were thin and, unfortunately, the song's key seemed too low for her, and that didn’t help for a dynamic build; which is important for the big opening.  However, the fun and interesting Limon Choreography does help to pump some life into this slow starter.

Hamlin as Old Joe looks as if he were pulled right out of Central Casting for the perfect 1950s husband. Well cast. His acting and singing transported the audience back to the post-World War II boom. The extremely touching “Goodbye, Old Girl” sets the tone for Joe’s deeply monogamous love.

Suddenly, the smooth-talking Mr. Applegate (Tod Macofsky) appears. He offers Joe the chance to become "Joe Hardy", the young slugger the Senators need. Joe accepts. However, his business sense makes him insist on an escape clause... they shake on it and the deal is set.  More about the Devilish scene stealer Macofsky in a moment.

At the ballpark, the hapless Senators vow to play their best despite their failings. Then young Joe Hardy (Patrick Wallace) is suddenly discovered and joins the team. Gloria Thorpe (Mia Mercado) a sports reporter, praises him and uses her press power to make him famous.

Mercado takes the stage beautifully and uses a talented group of baseball players to concoct an article giving life to the mysterious “Shoeless Joe From Hannibal, Mo”.  Her powerful vocals keep the number elevated and her capable dancing skill blends seamlessly with the others – perfectly in sync.  Bravo! This highly exuberant and thoroughly enjoyable production number utilizes the male ensemble:  Henry (Christian Fonte), Sohovik (Nick Wass), Smokey (Koby  Queenen), Linville (Paul Zappia), Cubby (Xavier Brown), Rocky (Mathew Tucker), Vernon (Miguel Olivas), Bouley (Timothy McIntosh), and Lowe (Billy Franco).  Each ballplayer has defined characters which gives life and dimension to every Ballpark and gym locker room scene.  (Note:  Every gym locker scene started exactly the same way – loud happy cheers and contagious laughter from the boys – triggering similar laughter from the audience.)  Another stand-out moment in the locker room took place when Coach Van Buren (Glenn Liggett) led his players in the iconic “Heart”— showcasing the talents of Tucker, Olivas, and Queenen.

 Fearful of losing his deal, Applegate calls Lola (Ava Sarnowski), "the best homewrecker on [his] staff", to seduce young Joe and ensure his loss of the bet. She promises to deliver.

Now that I have addressed the last powerhouse in this talented trifecta:  Macofsky, Wallace, and Sarnowski  -- I can properly gush and fanboy in their directions.

 Sarnowski as Lola steps easily into the legendary Capezio character dance shoes of Gwen Verdon with a sophistication, a sensual grace, and a clean dancing ability that she claims star power. Showing off her exquisite solo skill in “A Little Brains, A Little Talent” and “Whatever Lola Wants”.   She took on this difficult and distinctive challenge and met it successfully head-on.   Even the dorky novelty song “Who’s Got The Pain?” rises to the level of quality thanks to Sarnowski – together with the ensemble stand-out Mathew Tucker – they playfully entertain with a dance that doesn’t progress the story at all, but it’s a fun showcase for these two.

 Wallace – Broadway quality performer -- as Young Joe gets to show off his gorgeous singing chops and masculine dancer appeal.  Even through the scenes where Joe’s ego grows, or he must show anger – Wallace’s natural likability shines through and the audience automatically forgives.  His only solo, “A Man Doesn’t Know”, is performed with a depth that solidifies the bond between Joe and his wife Meg.  As a matter of fact, the tender telephone scene in Act Two with Moser was a crowd-pleaser as they reprise “A Man Doesn’t Know”.  The heart of the show is revealed during this moment and they both rise to the occasion.  Also, the song key is infinitely better for Moser and her emotional delivery equals that of Wallace.

Macofsky as Applegate deliciously chews the scenery with every fiber of his being for a non-stop exceptional performance.  Dripping with charisma he manipulated and maneuvered his way through every scene. Immaculately dressed he was a slick salesman with the wildly exaggerated cartoon attributes of Bugs Bunny, the petty childish qualities of Jack McFarland (Will & Grace), and the quick temper of Donald Duck. His comedic ability is superb and guarantees the immediate ownership of this devilish role as his very own.  Many funny people have played this role Ray Walston – who originated it on Broadway, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jerry Lewis, however, Macofsky gave a new kind of smooth talkin’ unctuous that blew the rest of those hacks out of the water.  He also stopped the show with his sensational rendition of “Those Were The Good Old Days” – Again, Limon’s ingenious staging with clever rear-screen projections made it a performance highlight.  

The remaining supporting cast gave some notable performances:  Sonia Reavis as Sister and Julie Schwaben as Doris – best friends of Meg -- were hilarious caricatures that made fun of women from a – thankfully – bygone era. They gave the audience many hearty laughs.

The three older actors: Gene Strange as Welch, owner of the Washington Senators, Joe Smith as various roles, and Don Savage as the no-nonsense baseball Commissioner – all three gave credible performances that folded in smoothly.

The three youngest members of the cast: Aiden Lizada, Sam Rekuc, and Desmond Seiders stole hearts with their impish grins as they sang an adorable reprise of “Heart”.

The ladies of the ensemble all had powerful singing voices and played various roles: Jana Giboney, Rita Wagner, Jean Vento-Hall, and Lois Bendurich –  each lady carried themselves perfectly with the 1950s mentality and stood out with style during the Jazz club dance sequence. 

Speaking of the Jazz Club – a peak moment is when Lola finds a despondent Joe and she goes on to admit her “ugly past” in Rhode Island prior to meeting Applegate and selling her soul. Joe insists that he will find a way to win the pennant despite Applegate – he will attempt to make the best of his new life. They go dancing and what transpires is a cool, jazz hands-filled, Fosse-esque – “Two Lost Souls” --  that was even more exciting than what occurred prior in the show. The sensual build of this number climaxed in a rousing showcase for the ensemble and the two leads. Although I’ll admit Wallace and the male ensemble had a moment away from the ladies that scorched the dance floor with some spectacular moves. The thunderous applause from the audience proved this was another home run in an evening of winners.

The only minor negative in the whole evening occurred at the end of the first Act. When a very important plot point with new information about Joe Hardy is being revealed; the cliffhanger before intermission. Doris, Sister, and the little boys were making so much noise and such a distraction that it was hard to know where the focus should be – and the Act seemed to abruptly end with the lights slowly fading. Leaving many of the audience members sitting nearby confused about what just happened.  

The 12-piece orchestra conducted by one of their incomparable Musical Directors, Scott Smith, always heightens the level of professionalism and the immediate high energy of a Desert Theatricals production. Members of the orchestra I salute you:  Frank Giordano (Keyboard II), Darrel Gardner (Trumpet), Gary Tole (Trombone), Bruce Clausen (French Horn), Alan Yankee & John Reilly (Reeds), Cindy Brogen & Charlie Viehl (Violins), Brad Vaughn (Percussion), Larry Holloway (Bass), Robert Scarano (Guitar).

Set design by Joshua Carr, Anthony Paulin, and Zoe Sanchez was clean and functional. Effortlessly and easily moved to change for each new location. Rear screen projection designer, Nick Wass, added to the fast location changes and some of the night's best laughs – especially during young Joe’s baseball tryouts.  

Costume Coordination by Leslie Upp, Wig Design by Kathryn Scott, and Props by Desert Theatricals proved they did their 1950s homework from the vintage, period, and properly accentuated details.

Damn Yankees is a clever, tuneful nostalgic trip back to the Golden Age of Broadway musicals. It is definitely a trip worth taking because it is a grand slam full of vintage 1950s Broadway that isn’t often revived... couple that with the Desert Theatricals creative team... and they have a championship hit!

“DAMN YANKEES” runs through April 5, 6, and 7.

Go to for dates and ticketing options. Seating IS LIMITED – you don’t want to miss out this year – The Desert Theatricals Broadway Series is spectacular and they partner with the City of Rancho Mirage to provide the BEST in local professional entertainment! There is NOTHING else in the Coachella Valley like it – hands down!

With their new partner, Willie’s Modern Fare they provide five-star dining under the stars with a waiter served, three course meal at a private table. Full bar service and additional Willie’s Bistro items are available to general admission ticket holders.

Wrapping up their Broadway series, they have the Rogers and Hammerstein classic, “OKLAHOMA!”.  For a rootin’ tootin’ time under the stars with this outstanding production! “OKLAHOMA!” runs May 3, 4 and 5.

No outside food or beverages or animals are allowed in the amphitheatre
Gates open at 5:30 - Show is at 7:30
Dinner served at 6:15 for dinner theatre patrons
Willies Bistro opens at 5:30 for General Admission. Full Bar Service.

For more information call: 760-620-5993


To post a comment, you must register and login.

Vote Sponsor