City Nights Dinner Theatre's latest presentation "Damn Yankees" is a splendid mixture of direction,music direction and choreography. The poignant and comic moments are blended together in this show about good triumphing over evil perfectly moving the audience to laughter and to tears at the right moments. Director Ernest J. Medeiros knows all the right buttons to push with his expert casting and staging of these 23 performers, Scott Morency brings out the best vocal and orchestra sounds in them and finally Jennifer Gillis choreographs herself as Lola and the baseball players dancers in the closest thing to Broadway dancing I've seen in Rhode Island.
The 1950's story of a man who sells his soul to...Mr. Applegate in this show could seem dated but the defeat of this evil character gives hope for this year 2000 and beyond by the triumph of the goodness and love of one person for another . The despicable, malevolent Applegate is played by Larry Jensen. His smarmy looks and delivery send shivers up your spine and his costumes with red thrown in to almost all of them was hysterical. Larry's song "The Good Old Days" was an old Al Jolson number come to life without the hat and cane.
Jennifer Gillis as Lola is a triple threat actress, singer and dancer. She shines in all her numbers, reminding me of a young Chita Rivera. The Tango striptease in "Whatever Lola Wants", the mambo number, and her first song are outstanding. Her baseball kick line in "Heart" and the baseball bat dance with ten men dancing in unison is sheer perfection! Keep up the good work. I loved her Spanish accent and her ugliest woman in Providence, RI line.
Andrew Stangland does a fantastic job as the vulnerable 22 year old ball player Joe Hardy. His acting is super and he handles his solos and duets with Meg and Lola very well too. His reactions during the strip number are very funny and the trio number "Near to You" brings tears to the audience's eyes.
Siobhan McHugh as Meg brings out the pathos in this show. She leads the chorus in the beautiful and dynamic opening number with the whole chorus and in the ballads with the two Joe's. The tears in her eyes made the touching moments of the show come to life.
Don Therrien as Joe Boyd who sells his soul to have the Yankees lose, also tugs at your heartstrings in "Goodbye Old Girl and the trio number. He is adept at comic moments in the show, too. Don's crying added the right touch to the closing song of the show.
Heather Vieira and Jen Shirley play Sister and Doris, Meg's funny friends. Heather's vocal delivery and New York accent brought gales of laughter to the audience as did the different charecteristics of the ballplayers. Not only could these men dancethey could act up many facial expressions among them. Mike Johnson as Smokey and Nishan Lawton as Rocky stood out as the dumbest and funniest of the bunch. They led the "Game" song which told how when they are about to makeout with their girlfriends, all they can think of is the game. Ralph Bruno, Jason Palin and Justin Jutras made funny expressions and sang very well in the group numbers. The team's coach Roger Belanger plays the crusty leader of the team with ease and leads his men in "Heart". Heather also sings this song with Jen and the three children in the show but she makes it into a comedy routine by singing loudly and off key. A truly hilarious scene in this show.
Elena Seymour plays the nosy newspaper reporter Gloria. She is a pretty red haired girl who handles her scenes wonderfully and she leads the team in the energetic number "Shoeless Joe". I loved the scene where she stood her ground against the evil Applegate.
Add beautiful and authenic Fifties costumes and an easy on again off again house set , Lola's set and the baseball locker room and arena set handled with ease by the cast and crew led by stage manager Kathy Shurtleff and you have what a well run musical should be. Kudos to everyone involved in this show