THEATER REVIEW: “Damn Yankees” @ the Mac-Haydn Theatre [Berkshire on Stage]
Review by Barbara Waldinger
Chatham’s Mac-Haydn Theatre, celebrated for its spectacular musical revivals, opened its 50th season with the Tony Award-winning Damn Yankees. The performance delivered on its promise of outstanding singer/dancers directed (by John Saunders) and choreographed (by Brian Knowlton) to a fare-thee-well.
Damn Yankees first opened in 1955, written by George Abbott and Douglas Wallop, based on Wallop’s novel, “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant.” Abbott directed, Bob Fosse choreographed and Richard Adler and Jerry Ross wrote the music (as they had for Pajama Game). The producers sought a female dancer for the leading lady and eventually settled on Gwen Verdon, a dancer who had only sung one song in her previous show, Can-Can. Bob Fosse took a chance with her, Verdon won a Tony for her performance, and they married in 1960. A 1994 Broadway revival with Bebe Neuwirth was also awarded a best musical Tony.
The show is set in the mid-1950s, during a stretch when the New York Yankees won the American League pennant virtually every year. In a retelling of the Faust legend, the middle-aged Joe Boyd (Steven Hassmer), disgusted with his beloved Washington Senators’ terrible record, screams: “I’d sell my soul for one long ball hitter.” Presto! The devil – Mr. Applegate (Mark Hardy) – arrives amidst a red cloud of smoke and proposes that he convert the Senators into champions by changing Boyd into young phenom Joe Hardy (Michael Brennan). Boyd cannot resist this temptation, but he insists on an escape clause that will allow him to return to his normal life and loving wife (Julie Galorenzo) if chooses to do so by the end of the season. Fearing that Joe will slip through his fingers, Applegate employs his lovely seductress, Lola (Corrinne Turk) to seal the deal. And will he abandon his wife for the siren Lola?