Theatre Mirror Reviews - "DAMN YANKEES"

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note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The first musical of Ocean State Theatre's summer season is "Damn Yankees", the 1956 Tony Award winning musical. The story concerns Joe Boyd, a die-hard baseball fanatic who hates the Yankees and loves the Washington Senators. He wishes the Senators could get a terrific long ball hitter, so they can beat the Yankees to win the pennant. His prayers are answered when the debonair Mr. Applegate appears and grants middle aged Boyd's wish and turns him into Joe Hardy. Boyd sells his soul to Mr. Applegate but has an escape clause written into this contract. There is always a price to pay. The triumph of good over evil due to the love of another person moves the audience to laughter and tears at all the right moments in this show. Director Amiee Turner casts 27 talented performers in this musical while music director Justin Cowan infuses the musical numbers with glorious renditions by the performers and a melodious sound from his five piece orchestra. MK Lawson's choreography is stellar and high energy. Their combined efforts create a musical with a lot of "Heart" and some very comic moments to entertain you all night long and wins them a thunderous standing ovation.

Amiee combines the comic and dramatic moments together wonderfully. MK's high energy dances include seduction dance by Lola, the Gloria dance with the baseball players that is riveting and stops the show with their expertise, the hysterically funny "The Game" where the team longs for female companionship only to have to think about the game and the group dance to "Two Lost Souls" is powerful, too. The evil Mr. Applegate is excellently played by Beau Allen. He first appears as Applegate mysteriously when Joe says he'd sell his soul if the Senators would win the world series. Beau's line delivery as this despicable and malevolent character is well done. He appears to dissuade Meg from renting a room to Joe Hardy and tries to cause havoc and mayhem to have Joe's soul . Beau gets to strut his stuff ala Al Jolson style number with a cane called "The Good Old Days" when he recalls his past misdeeds. His seductive sidekick, Lola is marvelously played by Lauren Gemelli. She is a gorgeous brunette who wears a red wig as Lola. Lauren sings and dances up a storm in "A Little Brains, A Little Talent", the Spanish style number, "Whatever Lola Wants" where she takes off a piece of her clothing and the show stopping mambo dance with Diego Guevara "Who's Got the Pain" as well as the group dance "Two Lost Souls" which is a jazzy number. Lauren handles the transition from trying to ruin Joe Hardy to being compassionate and sympathetic to his plight with ease. Lauren's sexpot portrayal is wonderful to behold and her funniest line is "She was the ugliest woman in Providence, RI" which won many laughs.

Matt Gibson is dynamite as Joe Hardy. I first saw him onstage in 1993 as a young boy playing the role of Oliver and thought this kid is very talented and is going places in show biz. In 1998, I was in "Oklahoma" with him as he played Curly and I played Andrew Carnes. Matt went to NYU, was in "Gypsy" on Broadway with Patti Lupone in 2008. And fast forward to 2016 and he brings this musical to life at his first entrance with his astounding tenor voice singing ""Goodbye Old Girl"!! At six feet two, Matt plays the hero of this story with the strength and earnest behavior it needs. His other poignant number is "A Man Doesn't Know" which brings tears to the audience as he sings it to Meg Boyd. Joe and Meg's other number is "Near to You" where he longs to be with her again as Joe Boyd. Some of his comic moments include his reactions to Lola's seduction attempt and the comic "Two Lost Souls" where he finally gets to dance. Sally Ann Swarm plays Meg Boyd, the long suffering wife who puts up "Six Months Out of the Year" is baseball season. She brings the warmth and pathos to the show with her proving there is no place like home. Her final song "A Woman Doesn't Know" when she finally saves Joe from the clutches of Applegate with her eternal love for him. The third member of this trio is John Costa as Old Joe. He is the Washington Senators fanatic who makes a deal to sell his soul but since he is in real estate, puts an escape clause in it.

Pretty blonde Kristin Arsenault is astounding as the nosey reporter, Gloria who wants to know everything about Joe Hardy and thinks Joe is Shifty McCoy due to Applegate's machinations. Her phenomenal song and dance number with the ball players in "Shirtless Joe from Hannibal, MO" as she jumps from a second story level doing a flip and dancing up a storm with them. Astounding work from Kristen who was in the National Company of "Cats" for four years. Jef Canter plays Van Buren, the coach who tries to energize his team with "Heart" to turn them into a topnotch ball club. Jef belts out the number with his 8 ball players who are excellent singers and dancers and will leave you breathless with their talent. Two of the players, Rocky and Smokey open the second act with the comic "The Game" where every time they want to have sex they are halted to think about the game. Greg LoBuono as Rocky and Sam Stone as the dumbbell, Smokey stop the show with hilarity. I last reviewed Sam as Max in "The Sound of Music" at LaSalle. Two comic friends of Meg who lighten things up are played by Sarah Dunn and Tamra Stephenson as Sister and Doris. They are baseball fanatics who swoon when they first meet Joe Hardy at the Boyd house and lie with Meg by telling the commission they knew Joe from Hannibal. So for a damn good show, be sure to take a nostalgic trip back to the 1950's and catch "Damn Yankees" at Ocean State Theatre Company before the evil Mr. Applegate and the base ball players leave town with Lola and Joe. Tell them Tony sent you.

DAMN YANKEES (6 to 24 July)
Ocean State Theatre Company, 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick, RI
1(401)921-6800 or

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