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January 14, 2009 > Theater Review: Damn Yankees delivers solid hit

Theater Review: Damn Yankees delivers solid hit

By Julie Grabowski

Washington Senators fan Joe Boyd would give anything for "one long ball hitter" to resurrect his last place team and finally allow them to beat the dominant Yankees and win the pennant. In answer to his longing, the Devil dressed as a cunning Mr. Applegate suddenly appears and offers Joe the opportunity to become a 22-year-old star for the Senators in exchange for his soul. While he cannot pass up the deal, Joe insists on an escape clause that allows him to return to his beloved wife before 9 p.m. on the final game day if he so chooses. When his initial exuberance over his transformation into Joe Hardy declines into homesickness and frustration, Mr. Applegate sends in his best temptress, Lola, to distract Joe and ensure his damnation.

"Damn Yankees" leads the New Year for Stage 1 with all the enthusiasm and delight of a good ball game. The National Anthem appropriately kicks off the evening, followed by an opening medley from the 31-member orchestra in the Pit of Despair. However, their impressive number and little red devil horns don't distract from the fact that they are far outshone by the vocals, excellently led by Katie Potts, Josh Milbourne, and Lisa Otterstetter. Potts is splendid as smart and sassy reporter Gloria Thorpe, while Milbourne shines as the trapped young ballplayer. The heat unsurprisingly comes from Lola, played to perfection by the captivating Otterstetter. Working her wiles in the Miss Banana persona for "Whatever Lola Wants" is one of the best spots of the evening. Christopher Ciabattoni is sufficiently pleasing as Mr. Applegate, but Belinda Maloney and Laura Sengupta surpass his larger role with their hilarious giddy superfan sisters; their mere presence on stage an instant scene stealer.

The show is consistently strong and entertaining throughout, though the best numbers appear early on. The first act delivers the humorous wifely lament "Six Months Out of Every Year," the cheerful, encouraging "Heart," a lively high kicking "Shoeless Joe," and the hilariously teasing "Whatever Lola Wants," while the second half gets its brightest spark from the players struggle for singular focus in "The Game." It is no surprise that the original 1955 Broadway production ran for over one thousand performances and collected seven Tony Awards. "Damn Yankees" is a thoroughly enjoyable experience with great music and dance and laughs a plenty. Director David Sikula delivers a fine production for Stage 1, reminding us that nothing, not even the glory of the game, can compare to true love.

Tickets are $25 for general admission at the door; $22 for advanced purchase, seniors 62 and over and college students with ID; and $12 for high school students and younger. Advance tickets can be purchased at the Book End in Newark, 5678 Thornton Ave., by calling (510) 791-0287, or online at www.stage1theatre.org.


Damn Yankees
January 9-24
Fridays and Saturdays 8 p.m., Sundays 2:30 p.m.
Newark Memorial Theatre
39375 Newark Blvd., Newark
(510) 791-0287
Tickets: $12-$25

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