Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Damn Yankees"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2000 by Tony Annicone

"Damn Yankees"

Tony Annicone

Theatre-by-the-Sea's final production of this season is the 1956 Tony award winning musical "Damn Yankees". The story of a man, Joe Boyd who sells his soul to...Mr. Applegate to ensure that his baseball team defeats the Yankees is given new life by this talented cast. Director Drew Scott Harris, musical director Jay Atwood and choreographer Michelle Yaroshko mold these 19 performers into a splendid mixture of both poignant and comic moments under their tutelage. The triumph of good (the love of another person) over evil moves the audience to tears and laughter at all the right moments.

The evil Mr. Applegate is played by multitalented Gary Marachek. His line delivery is expertly done. He plays the despicable and malevolent character with great energy and panache. Gary stops the show with "The Good Old Days" as he remembers his past misdeeds. This Al Jolson style song is hysterical. Gary brings alot of charm to this character in his wonderful and funny performance. He is the definitive Applegate! I absolutely loved his final defeat in throwing a temper tantrum by beat his hands and feet on the floor.

Nancy Lemenager plays the seductive, Lola. This girl looks like a redheaded Liz Callaway. Not only is she beautiful but she dances up a storm and sings as well as she dances! Nancy handles the transition from trying to ruin Joe Hardy to being sympathetic to him perfectly. Her "Brains/Talent with the chorus men, the vampy tango," Whatever Lola Wants"(the shower with dry ice is a hoot!) and the mambo number are outstanding. The Spanish accent and the ugliest woman in Providence, RI are other sparkling moments in Nacy's performance. Brava!

Erik Lautier is splendid as Joe Hardy, the baseball player. This young man possesses a magnificent baritone voice that knocks the audiences socks off. His gorgeous rendition of "Goodbye Old Girl", "A Man Doesn't Know" and his duet "Near to You" brings tears to the audience's eyes. Erik also displays his strength as an actor by giving the usual good character a backbone in all his scenes. He has many superb facial expressions and reactions especially to Lola. A note to "One Life To Live" powers that be, give this actor a contract role and find him a nightclub on your show and let him sing, I guarantee your ratings will definitely go up! Hope to see Erik in many shows in the future. Great job!

Allison Mayne plays Meg Boyd, Joe's long suffering wife. She brings the warmth and pathos to this show. Allison stepped into this role as an understudy and made it her own. Her lovely soprano voice shone in her solo and duet numbers with both Joes. Allison helped make the last scene very touching with her embracing her husband and saving him from Applegate. Super job, Allison!

Drew Taylor plays Joe Boyd who sells his soul, also tugs at your heartstrings in "Old Girl" number. He finally realizes his wife, and his love of her is more important than anything else. Drew's crying added the right touch to the closing song of the show.

Jodi Capeless and Kirsten Brant play Sister and Doris, Meg's funny friends. These two women are scene stealers especially funny is when they lead the "Heart" reprise number. (Kirsten's split is a comic gem) Their reactions at recognizing Joe Hardy are also funny.

Statuesque Deb Rascoe plays the nosy reporter, Gloria. A gorgeous redhead in real life, Deb wears a short brunette wig in the show strutting and posing in 1950's style takes on the other characters. Her rendition of "Shoeless Joe" with the energetic ballplayers is also a standout number. Deb handles her scenes wonderfully especially when she stands up to the evil Applegate.The seven talented ballplayers ( also doubling in other roles) are played by Tony Wichowski,(who handles the team's owner role with ease and is a natural on stage) Bill Biondolino, (who plays Smokey one of the horny ballplayers) Edward Matias, James Carroll, (who plays Rocky the dumbest one) Skie Ocasio, (who filled in on the mambo number last minute) Sean Mamola (who plays Henry, with a higher pitch to his voice, also injured his back and was unable to dance in the show which is unfortunate because this kid is a dynamic dancer) and Bruce Wilson.

The team is lead by Bob Freschi as the coach. He sings "Heart" with James, Bill and Tony. Bob plays the crusty coach very well. All the male dancers do superb work in their dance numbers.The great female dancers Jill Braverman and Lea O'Connell join the guys in the beatnik dance with Lola and Joe Hardy, "Two Lost Souls". An excellent ballplayer's number is "The Game" where they are about to make love with their girlfriends but they can only think of the game. James, Bill, Tony and Sean do super solo work during this number. Jay Atwood brings out the best in these performers with the beautiful harmonies in the numbers and leads the orchestra beautifully, too.

The slide projections are the upstage scrim added alot to help the audience know where they were. Jeff Modereger's set work is perfect as are the 1950's costumes by David Howard. So if you want to see a "Damn" good show go to Theatre-by-the-Sea in Matunuck to see "Yankees".( Next season's shows look like as promising as this year's shows were. I am looking forward to "My One and Only", "Bye by Birdie", "The King & I"(my personal favorite) and "Sweet Charity". )

"Damn Yankees" (till 10 September)
1(401) 782-8587

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide