Devilishly Good Times
Huron Country Playhouse has a heart-warming home run hit with Damn Yankees, now on the main stage. 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.
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.
Charlotte Moore is perfect as Meg, who literally becomes a baseball widow. Moore in her fifties-style polka-dot skirt tugs your heart strings with her beautiful singing. James Kall plays middle-aged Joe, while Liam Tobin, fresh from his role as Lieutenant Cable in South Pacific, plays young Shoeless Joe. Both are good with their parts and both have excellent chemistry with Moore. Moore and Tobin show their fondness for each other making it natural and comfortable.
The role of the Devil is played by the very charming Mark Cassius. Cassius is very enticing and convincing, tap-dancing his way around while working his black magic. Kira Guloien as Lola is the Devil’s temptress side-kick, doing her best to lead Joe off the straight and narrow.
Heather McGuigan gives us an excellent interpretation of the fifties tough girl reporter, who wants to know young Joe’s background. McGuigan makes Gloria hard-nosed yet very likable. She also tap-dances with the entire ball team in the delightful “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo”.
Kudos to the ensemble for the big song and dance numbers, especially the ball players for their baton-style baseball bat choreography. And a shout out to Karen Wood for her brilliant comedy as Sister.
The set is well done, opening with 1950s baseball cards. We are led from a cute fifties bungalow to the lights of the baseball diamond, the locker room and the owner’s office. Red lighting bathes the stage every time the Devil and his vamp visit.
Damn Yankees is much more than a baseball show. In fact, those who don’t know baseball will still enjoy it. It’s a sweet love story with acting, singing and dancing that will win the pennant.
Damn Yankees continues with eight shows a week until July 12 at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office: 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com
Photo: Heather McGuigan as Gloria with the baseball team. Photo by Darlene O’Rourke.
Words & Music by Richard Adler & Jerry Ross
Book by George Abbott & Douglass Wallop
Based on the novel “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant” by Douglass Wallop
Directed & Choreographed by Michael Lichtefeld
Musical direction by Steve Thomas
Performed by James Kall, Charlotte Moore, Liam Tobin, Mark Cassius, Heather McGuigan, Kira Guloien, et al.
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
June 29 to July 12, 2014
Reviewed by Mary Alderson