Porthouse opens season with ‘Damn Yankees’
|Washington Senator ballplayer Rocky (Jack O’Brian), at center, reminds the team to think about the game in Porthouse Theatre’s production of “Damn Yankees.”|
|Photo: Matt Unger, courtesy of Kent State University|
It is a musical comedy of the classic style. The love story demands a willing suspension of disbelief. Joe Boyd (Marc Moritz) loves baseball and especially the Washington Senators. Frustrated by his love for a losing team, Boyd declares he’d sell his soul if it would help his team win. Out of the fog steps Mr. Applegate (Eric van Baars), the Devil, who wants to help Joe make good on his promise.
Applegate turns Boyd into Joe Hardy (Michael Glavan), a hitter, who can knock the ball out of the stadium. Hardy can do no wrong. The team wins and moves forward in the rankings.
But Hardy is homesick for his wife (Boyd’s wife) and rents a room in her house. Meg Boyd (Mary Anne Prevost) waits patiently for her husband to return.
Mr. Applegate tests Boyd/Hardy with Lola (MaryAnn Black). This sexy temptation sings “Whatever Lola Wants” to him, and he doesn’t give in to the temptress — he wants his wife.
The 50-plus-year-old show is sweet, gentle and kind. When the show opened in 1955, “Damn Yankees” was spicy and a bit naughty, but it celebrated home, hearth and the homerun.
The plot is right out of the 1950s — think of “Father Knows Best,” “Leave It to Beaver” and anything with Ozzie and Harriet. And that’s the problem — the script is so old that it creaks.
“Damn Yankees” brought several songs to popularity — “Heart,” “Whatever Lola Wants” and “Two Lost Souls.”
With words and music by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross and the book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop, the play is based on Wallop’s novel “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant.”
The production is rescued by the outstanding work of director Terri Kent and choreographer John Crawford.
Black and van Baars have played opposite each other in many shows at Porthouse. Once again, they have a number of scenes together, and they knock a homerun with each scene and song.
Glavan, a senior at Kent State, plans to make his way to New York City after graduation and establish himself as an actor. He is off to a good start as an actor with the Joe Hardy role. Glavan sings, dances and reads a line fairly well. With a little more training and polish, he should be ready for the Big Apple.
The singers and dancers are supported by a 10-piece orchestra conducted by Jonathan Swoboda. This group is on key with enough volume and the right pace to keep the show moving without seeming rushed.
The real star of the show is the baseball team. This team sings and dances to keep the audience’s focus on baseball.
For ticket information, call 330-672-3884.
David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.
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