Given my love of baseball and musical theater, one would think that the 1956 Tony-winning musical Damn Yankees would be on my favorites list. This story about a fan of the Washington Senators (who became the Twins when the franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961) who sells his soul to the devil to become a home run hitter who leads his team to the championship is right up my alley. But despite having uttered the phrase "Damn Yankees!" many a time in my lifetime of cheering on the Twins, I had never seen the show before last night. I'm happy to report that the Ordway's production of Damn Yankees is exceedingly fun and completely satisfying for anyone who loves baseball and/or musicals, capturing the pure love of baseball in the fantastical story, catchy score, and fabulous performances by both national and local talent. It's truly a summertime treat.
|"You Gotta Have Heart!" (Allen Fitzpatrick,|
Randy Schmeling, Dieter Bierbrauer, and Reid Harmsen)
Written in the '60s, the show is a bit dated, with husbands sitting in armchairs watching baseball while their wives bemoan the fact that they're not paying attention to them and the meals that they cook. But at least there are a few women baseball fans. And in this production, the hero Joe is African American, something that's barely even noteworthy in a time when the baseball field is one of the most diverse places in the country, but surely was not what the creators envisioned just a few years after Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color barrier. The interracial relationships also (hopefully) don't raise any eyebrows today, but the diversity serves to make the show feel a bit more modern and relevant.
|Tari Kelly as Lola|
The Ordway is all decked out in the baseball theme, from the ushers in baseball caps who look more like Target Field ushers than theater ushers, to the familiar voices from Target Field making announcements, to a display of memorabilia from the Washington Senators in the lobby. The relatively simple set (by J Branson) is dominated by the fabulous onstage orchestra directed by Jeff Rizzo, with various set pieces brought out in front of them, including lockers and showers for the clubhouse scenes. The setting is further delineated by pop art-like illustrations projected on a screen behind the band, which also displays vintage baseball footage before the show and during intermission. The '50s period costumes (by Lynda L. Salsbury) are luscious, from the authentic-looking baseball uniforms, to the women's full '50s skirts, to Lola's sultry black and red dresses (always with red shoes!). A couple of fun dance numbers are nicely choreographed (by co-director/choreographers James Rocco and Sharon Halley) in a jazzy, swingy, Fosse kind of style, smartly performed by the cast.
James Rocco worked with his team to make the show "faster and funnier" (the words of book writer and original director George Abbott), and they succeeded. This is not one of those musicals that, even though you love it, plods on just a little too long. It's one of those musicals that ends and you think "is it over already?" It is fast (just over 2 hours including intermission) and it is funny. The run is fast too - the show closes on June 28 so make plans fast to catch this delicious summer treat. With a post-curtain call audience singalong to "You Gotta Have Heart," it'll send you out to the streets happy and ready to cheer on the home team! (Discount tickets available on Goldstar.)
*Read my Broadway World colleague Kristen's interview with Tari Kelly here.