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Damn Yankees -09/18/1999

Creative team: Director Patricia S. Stiller; Scenic Designers Jeremy Stiller and Chris Terven; Lighting Designer Jeremy Stiller; Costume Designer Eddy Arteman; Choreographer Chris Terven.

Play: Damn Yankees
Venue: Community Players Theater, 201 Robinhood Lane.
Dates: 8 p.m. Sept. 24-25 and October 1-2; 7:30 p.m. Sept. 30; 2;30 p.m. Sept. 26.
Cost: $13


When “Damn Yankees” hit it big on Broadway, it was something of a surprise.

For one thing, it involves baseball, which had always been considered a jinx in musical comedy. Based on a novel by Douglass Wallop called “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant,” “Damn Yankees” mixes bright, brassy shows tunes with a story about a guy who sells his soul to the devil (with one important escape clause) for a chance to play big-time baseball.

In this version of the Faust legend, a fed-up Washington Senators fan gets turned into an amazing long-ball hitter and sends more than couple out of the park, just so he can help his hapless home-team beat the hated Yankees and win the pennant.

“Damn Yankees” was a big hit in 1955, and it’s done well in community theaters and regional playhouses ever since. But for some reason, it didn’t make it back to Broadway. Until 1994, that is, when Bebe Neuwirth of “Cheers” fame starred as Lola (the bad girl who gets whatever she wants) and put the show back into rotation.

That production featured an updated script and a fun, fizzy pseudo-50’s look. Locally, Community Players reverts to the pre-revival script, however, without any of the newer references or sly jokes.
While that makes “Damn Yankees” seem a little mustier than it might’ve, the Community Players production does feature the classic version of the show, and it has its charms.

Chief among them is an excellent score by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, with such worthy hits as “Heart” and “Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)”. As proof of the latter’s staying power, you can hear it in a current TV ad -- for jeans, I think.

But “Heart” is definitely the highlight of this show, sung with enthusiasm and well, heart, by a goofy crew of baseball players. The team is led by Dan Horn, turning in a fine performance as their crusty manager.

Among the players, Jillyn M. Wilson is a standout as feisty reporter Gloria Thorpe, Deb Kersten sounds great as faithful “Old Girl” Meg Boyd, and Julie Wright is a scene stealer as a gossipy neighbor lady called Sister.

As the Senators’ savior, Jason Wiggins has an agreeable manner and a pleasant voice, even if his slight build makes him a somewhat unlikely candidate for major-league slugging chores.

Although neither is as polished as they could be, Dawn-Alena Worth energetically sells her songs and dances as slinky Lola, while Chris Terven is an audience favorite as the devilish Mr. Applegate.

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