Using words like ‘perfect’ may work for statistically-minded baseball fanatics, but surely something like live theatre should be more subjective – like poetry. Nevertheless, by listing each facet of the genre, and showing how SHERIDAN aced every one of these, methinks readers will agree that DAMN YANKEES epitomizes the parallel of baseball’s 27-strikeout game!
Perfect no. 1; Direction. Ray Hogg wore two hats for this production. Supervising the course that this adaptation of the 1955 Adler/Ross Broadway musical version of Doug Wallop’s “The Year the Yankees lost the pennant”; and as choreographer (see Perfect no. 4).
From the first pitch in which the entire Washington ball team warns the audience about cell-phones; photographs; candy wrappers etc. (which should be the new format announcement for all subsequent Sheridan presentations), to the bottom of the ninth; every detailed directive is minutely blocked and prescribed for the audience’s enjoyment. His cast selection; focal objectives and the on-stage fluidity is only outdone by creative blocking…including interaction with the front-row spectators.
Perfect no. 2; Pace. The plot is a thinly disguised take on the Faust legend – selling one’s soul for a short-term advantage. In this case, a devoté Washington Senators fan having the ability to help his heroes beat the hated Yankees for the division title. The enlistment by the devil; the transition, and the moving moment when said fan switches to the young athlete; then sings his goodbye to his absent wife; all flow seamlessly and evenly spaced. Even the balance between act I and the post ‘7th inning stretch before Act II is audience-friendly.
Perfect no. 3; Cast. Like almost every Sheridan production, the on-stage performers give full measure without any weak links. In this case, there are some standout performances that bode a surfeit of post-grad opportunities. The pivotal role of ‘Shoeless Joe’ is rendered by a dynamic Micah Richardson who displays all the charisma of a super-jock, but with an emotional range that also highlights his tender side. The voice carries authority and faultless tonality, especially in the ‘A man doesn’t know’ & ‘Two lost Souls’ duets. A critical support role is ‘Gloria’, the inquisitive sports reporter. The portrayal by Catherine Wylee has her character being an annoying nuisance but without such a role rendering, the plot would stagnate. Lucifer’s persona is Mr. Applegate and Greg Solomon brings such a twinkle to the role that one almost cheers for his accomplishing his nefarious intentions. His Jezebel assistant is Melanie Paiement as ‘Lola’ the vamp, and she not only distracts our hero, she steals the show. Sexily dancing up a storm or singing some of the most popular numbers in the show, she underscores the movements and lyrics with 1000-watt facial expressions.
Perfect no. 4; Choreography. Again kudos to Hogg. The dance numbers are amazingly challenging synchronization with some incredibly demanding solo gymnastics. The ‘Two Lost Souls’ chorus number, performed to just percussion background means no one should dare leave before the top of the ninth inning. This is a memorable highlight, even for Sheridan.
Perfect no. 5; Creation. The clever lyrics and message therein make the songs memorable even out of context. ‘Gotta have Heart’; “Whatever Lola Wants”; ‘Who’s Got the Pain’; the hilarious “Good Old Days” and the emotional ‘Man doesn’t know’ all have become standards.
Perfect no. 6; Set and props. The newly refurbished theatre lends itself to the sterility of a stadium, yet the carpet; moveable 50’s advertising; and the visible orchestra under Ryan deSousa add an intimacy as well as disguising the scene changes…very effective.
Perfect no. 7; Costumes. Lola’s sexy outfits; the Senators’ uniforms, and the groupies’ getups all reflect the role interpretations. Joanna Yu does a bang-up job of creativity. Only suggestion; when Shoeless Joe reverts back to sedentary Joe Boyd, Joel Cumber’s uniform should be way too large for his physique!
The original Broadway play had its pre-tryout run at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Montreal. Serendipity enabled this writer to see it a couple of times as well as meeting Ray Walston; Jean Stapleton and Gwen Verdon. None were famous at the time and I never imagined seeing the latter starring in “How to Succeed” on our NYC honeymoon seven years later.
DAMN YANKEES will be at Sheridan until Feb. 28th. Opening pitch-7:30. Miss it and you’ll have missed a definite sure-fire O.A.R. TOP TEN-er