Review by Lori Schneider
FORESTBURGH, NY (June 17, 2015) – Forestburgh Playhouse’s Season Opener, Damn Yankees is a feel-good hit featuring a company with miles and miles and miles of “Heart” that left this Yankee fan rooting for the Washington Senators and humming all the way home and on into the next day! Director/Choreographer Nathaniel Shaw has crafted a handsomely staged production with a whole lot o’ brains and a whole lot o’ talent together with Musical Director, Henry Lewers, who brings out the best in his able cast and musicians.
Based on the novel, “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant” by Douglass Wallop, Damn Yankees features music by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross (who’d had a previous hit with The Pajama Game) with Book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop. Set in the mid-1950s, the story centers on a middle-aged real estate broker, Joe Boyd (a soulful, Mitch Poulos) who, for “six months out of every year” is a die-hard fan of the underdog, Washington Senators and pines for a ‘long-ball hitter’ who could bring his team to victory against those “Damn Yankees” – so much so, that he would “sell his soul.” Enter Mr. Applegate (Dirk Lumbard), strikingly clad in a snazzy red suit, who, from the moment he steps hoof (uh, foot) on the stage does a devil of a job with the role! Applegate takes Boyd up on the deal to exchange his soul for a pennant for his team, and makes Joe, himself the needed savior in the incarnation of a young, strapping, Joe Hardy (Hunter Brown). But who is the smarter salesman? Boyd invokes an “escape clause” that allows him to walk away from the deal if, by the night before the Senators’ final game, he decides he wants to return to his old life. In a poignant “Goodbye, Old Girl” the transformation from Boyd to Hardy is complete. The older and younger men both have strong tenor voices and tenderly begin weaving the love story-within-the-story of Joe for his long suffering baseball-widow wife, Meg (warmly and well-played by Melodie Wolford).
The Washington Senators are a long-losing team, but their Manager, Van Buren (Todd Berkich), who at times seems to channel Tom Hanks’ Manager, Jimmy Dugan from “A League of Their Own,” explains that talent is only a portion of what it takes to have a winning team – and with smooth choreography and harmonies on the part of the Senators, “Heart” is one of the best numbers in the show. Another standout is the rousing “Shoeless Joe” (a nod to Shoeless Joe Jackson?) in which reporter, Gloria Thorpe (the feisty, talented, Abbey Sierakowski) and the Senators create a media sensation.
With Joe on his way to achieving his dream, Applegate hedges his own bet to cement Joe’s soul by calling upon a femme fatale partner in damnation, Lola (Jessica Lee Goldyn), a sexy siren to bait the trap. The interplay between Applegate and Lola is sharp and funny – starting with the flashy “A Little Brains, A Little Talent” and continuing throughout the show for some hilarious moments. Goldyn’s “Whatever Lola Wants” is another dynamite number, where she attempts to tempt the handsome, young Joe – although the stiff material of her red dress seems to move independently of her sensual body movement and almost works at odds against the choreography – that is, until it is peeled off, revealing a naughty bustier. But Joe remains devoted to his wife – homesick, renting a room to be near to her. “A Man Doesn’t Know” reveals the longing that Meg and Joe feel as Wolford and Brown share a lovely duet.
“The Game” is an adorable number, where the ball players lament the things they must give up to keep their focus on the game. “Good Old Days” allows Lumbard’s Applegate to sparkle as he delights in tragedies of history with sardonic laughter and comic timing. And speaking of comic timing, Hattie Marks (Sister) and Liane Zielinski (Doris) play hysterically funny supporting characters – stealing scenes, left and right!
All the elements come together and make for an engaging production – a versatile set with Scenic Design by Buck Linton, effective lighting and sound by Technical Director, James Scotland, IV and Sound Designer, Dave Sanford, and Costume Design by Mark Sorensen that evokes time, place and character well.
You can catch this devilishly funny home-run of a musical through June 28 at the Forestburgh Playhouse – and don’t miss the Double Play Special, Thursday – Saturday, June 18-20 and 25-27 only – get two tickets for the price of one – call 845-794-1194.