Damn Yankees -- Tuneful Delight

By Karen Isaacs

The opening production at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam is the 1950s Damn Yankees. BUT the show has been updated. This tale of a long suffering baseball fan who makes a deal with the devil so that team can win the pennant has changed venues.

In the original production, Joe Boyd roots for the Washington Senators, a perennial last place finisher. When he agrees to the deal with Mr. Applegate -- or the devil -- he is transformed into the youthful and athletically gifted hitter Joe Hardy. But there is a fly in the ointment -- as the team wins and slowly moves up the standings, Joe misses his wife and his home. He wants out of the deal and in fact, had negotiated an escape clause. Even when Applegate brings in Lola, his master seductress -- Joe still wants out.

In this version, seemingly geared for New England -- it is Boston in 1952 and Joe Hardy is a long suffering Red Sox fan. This allows for some humor about the curse and some flash forwards to the Red Sox success in the 21st century.

The music is tuneful -- you will recognize "You Gotta Have Heart", "Whatever Lola Wants" and other tunes. The dancing by the baseball team is terrific and the choreography by Kelli Barclay is good. Daniel Goldstein has directed with a sure hand.

Overall the performances are very good. I really enjoyed James Judy as Joe Boyd and Stephen Mark Lukas as Joe Hardy who is easy on the eyes. He is that unusual combination of a terrific singer who can also dance. Angel Reda looks like a knockout as Lola and she certainly knows how to pull out the sex appeal. The men in the audience were drooling. But I've always thought that Lola seduced with humor as much sex; and Angel Reda doesn't really bring the humor.

The supporting cast overall is terrific. Several cast members deserve recognition including Ann Arvia as Joe's wife, Kristin Zbornik as her sister and several of the ball players.

Yankee fans may not love the ending, when the set -- the green monster at Fenway -- displays the recent World Series banners

Damn Yankees is a tuneful enjoyable evening in the theater -- and you don't even have to be a baseball fan. It runs at Goodspeed through June 21.

This review appeared on WNHU-fm 88.7 and www.wnhu.net.

Posted 5.19.2014


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