note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Richard Pacheco
“Damn Yankees” currently at Ocean State Theatre is a vintage musical but in this production it is showing its age. There are some rough edges here not just in the musical itself, signs of strain in the performances. There are some fun moments it\n it but there is too much of feeling of something missing throughout.
The story is the tale of old Joe Boyd a lifelong Washington Senators fan who is distressed by their constantly losing record. He gets the opportunity from Mr. Applegate to transform not only that record but his secret desire to play baseball into reality. The price for all this, Joe’s soul of course. Yet Joe is reluctant to leave his beloved wife on long standing behind to pursue his dreams. Despite that, he does so anyway. At the park the ballplayers are not what you’d’ expect. Older, and somewhat overweight they do not evoke the image of professional baseball players.
One of the standouts here thought is the young baseball players, Joe Hardy played by Matt Gibson who is a delight. He is charming with his shy boy attitude and modesty as the terrific ballplayers. He sings with sass and style. He is highly convincing.His tenor voice was elegant and tender. His nemesis is Mr. Applegate, the conniving, deceptive devil himself, full of double dealing and dirty tricks. Beau Allen is Mr. Applegate. He attempts a kind of suave elegance and indifferent poise that doesn’t really work. There are times when he seems awkward with his lines, uncertain. His voice isn’t strong either. Maybe I was just spoiled by seeing Jerry Lewis in the role in New York many years ago.
Sally Ann Swarm is Joe’s Boyd’s wife Meg. Meg is loyal and devoted, a woman who loves her husband deeply despite his addiction to baseball. She is the epitome of simplicity and dedication. At once unfaltering and yet saddened by her husband’s unexplained absence off on some obscure business trip. The duets she sings with Gibson are sweet and sincere such as “Near to You” and “A Man Doesn’t Know.”
Then there is Lola, Mr. Applegate’s temptress, played by Lauren Gemilli. Lola is the epitome of sensuality and undaunted sexuality. For someone who is well over 100 years old, she slinks about cavorting with reckless abandon. She doesn’t seem sultry enough in the role. The kind of mind boggling sensuality the role demands seems missing here, stopping short. The proof is in the song, “Whatever Lola Wants” which seems to lack sass and sizzle.
Director Aimee Turner tries to keep it all on course, but it doesn’t quite make it. It never seems to gel to make it the kind of fun fantasy it should be.
Musical director Justin P. Cowan doesn’t quite pull off all the musical numbers and songs to best effect.
The M.K. Lawson choreography however is mostly spirited and energetic. The conducting by Justin P. Cowan is precise and on the mark.
While this Tony Award winning show has potential it is showing its age quite a bit. The cast doesn’t seem mange to pull it off or somehow enhance it and revivify it.