The Devil Made Me Do It
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
Many Toronto Maple Leaf fans will understand the premise of Damn Yankees. I’m sure there are plenty of Leafs’ fans who would sell their soul to the Devil in exchange for a Stanley Cup. In Damn Yankees, we meet Joe Boyd, a fanatical fan of the Washington Senators. He would do anything for the Senators to have a win over the Yankees.
This little-known Broadway musical dates back to 1955, and while you might not be familiar with the show, you will certainly recognize some of the tunes. It is on stage at the Shaw Festival Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake until October 9.
Based on the Faustian legend about a German scholar who makes a pact with the Devil in exchange for great knowledge and wisdom, this show is reminiscent of the great Canadian curling play, The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon, written by W. O. Mitchell in 1951.
In Damn Yankees, Meg and Joe Boyd are a happily married couple, but as Meg points out in her first song, he is glued to the TV watching baseball “Six Months Out of Every Year”. Joe is the ultimate Washington Senators fan and would give anything to see The Senators beat those damn Yankees. Suddenly, the Devil himself shows up, with the alias Mr. Applegate, offering to make Joe Boyd into the young Joe Hardy, a hitter who can save the Senators, and ultimately beat the Yankees. But then the Devil will own Joe’s soul forever. Luckily Joe asks for an escape clause to go back to his wife. Will he make it? There are many temptations. You’ll have to see the show.
Mike Nadajewski steals the show as the Devil, alias Mr. Applegate. His comedic timing is perfect, as he works his black magic, popping in and out keeping an eye on the soul he has purchased. The Devil’s sidekick, Lola the temptress, is played expertly by Kimberley Rampersad. She uses all her wiles in her attempt to seduce Joe and make him forget his wife, Meg.
Shane Carty plays Joe Boyd, who sells out to become young Joe Hardy, played by understudy Drew Plummer (who is replacing James Daly for several weeks). Plummer is even a look-alike for Carty, and handled the roll flawlessly despite being new in it.
Patty Jamieson is the perfect baseball widow, Meg, who literally loses her husband to the sport. Jamieson’s sad yet stalwart portrayal pulls on your heartstrings. Her friends provide humour as they become converted baseball fans, unknowingly swooning over their new hero, young Joe, never realizing he is Meg’s missing husband.
The costumes and set are very well done, taking the audience straight back to the 1950s. The time travelling is worth the trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Back to the days when the boys of summer were all-powerful – except when you needed the help of the Devil himself if you wanted to win the pennant.
Damn Yankees continues in repertory at The Shaw Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake until October 9. For tickets, visit www.shawfest.com or call 1-800-511-SHAW(7429).
Photos: Mike Nadajewski and Kimberley Rampersad as Applegate and Lola.
The Senators play ball. Photos by Michael Cooper.
Words and Music by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross
Book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop
Based on the novel by Douglass Wallop “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant”
Directed by Brian Hill
Musical Direction by Paul Sportelli
Performed by Shane Carty, Drew Plummer, Patty Jamieson, Mike Nadajewski, Kimberley Rampersad, Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane, Taurian Teelucksingh, Kelly Wong et al.
Shaw Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake
April 25 to October 9, 2022
Reviewed by Mary Alderson