“Damn Yankees - Red Sox” at Goodspeed Opera House thru June 21

By Tom Nissley

The powers that be at Goodspeed have meddled in a lovely way with the original script of “Damn Yankees,” choosing instead Joe DiPietro’s Boston version, organized around the legend of Babe Ruth’s curse on the Red Sox. And the product is damn wonderful. A handsome team of dancing ball players flood the stage with action, while the story of a middle-aged baseball fan (James Judy) who as a youth played for a home town ball club, and one day yelled at the TV “I’d sell my soul to get on the field again” turns into a soap opera managed by Lucifer Applegate (David Beach). It may have been unintended consequences, but the devilish Mr. Applegate offers Joe Boyd a chance to be young again and save the Red Sox, playing with the name Joe Hardy (Stephen Mark Lucas). Fully tempted (!), Joe agrees, but with the caveat that after a year has passed he can, if he chooses, return to his wife Meg (Ann Arvia). Hardy is accepted into the ball club, and suddenly his winning ways and smashing home runs have lifted the spirits of the Red Sox so much that they are well on the way to winning the pennant once again.

But...Joe misses Meg and Meg misses Joe. She has no idea how or why he disappeared. When the young Joe Hardy knocks at the door and asks to rent a room, she reluctantly agrees, and he of course can’t tell her who he really is and how his transformation happened. Applegate unleashes Lola (Angel Reda), another member of the demon clan, to appear as a bee-yuu-ti-ful gal and seduce Joe. But Joe keeps his nice guy demeanor, and stays loyal to Meg, promising himself that if he gets back to her, he’ll be a better husband in the future. You may have guessed by now that he does end up at home on the couch again, but now he watches his wife more than the TV, making for a happy ending.

I’d say that if you got to Goodspeed and did not love this show, you’re beyond help. It’s a well directed (Daniel Goldstein) and beautifully choreographed (Kelli Barclay) production, with compact sets by Adrian Jones, costumes by David C. Woolard, lighting by Brian Tovar, and sound by Jay Hilton.

The casting for this show is spot on. David Beach is remarkably devilish. Ann Arvia is a perfect loving wife. Angel Reda’s Lola is spectacular and sexy. Stephen Mark Lucas is the model modest baseball celebrity. And all of them can dance and sing with power and verve.

Go and enjoy. “Damn Yankees” plays at the Opera House thru June 21. Tickets and information at www.Goodspeed.org or 860-873-8668.

Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre.
May 13, 2014


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