Review: Damn Yankees at The Ordway

Two Cities 6/22/15

The Ordway offers a free program called Urbanites for young professionals ages 21-35, and through this group I had the opportunity to see the movie Damn Yankees for the first time last month. Joe sells his soul to the devil to help his favorite baseball team, the Washington Senators, beat the Yankees and win the pennant. If you’re not up on your local sports history, the real Senators moved to Minnesota in 1961 and became the Minnesota Twins.

Thanks to the Star Tribune and the Minnesota Twins as producing partners, The Ordway has added a plethora of special touches to the stage performance that avid baseball fans and frequent theater-goers alike can enjoy. From including local sports newscasters down to pre-show trivia to beer vendors, The Ordway has made this a one-of-a-kind production.

And I loved everything about it.

The show opens in the Boyds’ living room where an endearing and naive Meg (Ann Morrison) tries to make conversation with Joe (Lawrence Clayton) who’s glued to the baseball game on TV. They jump into “Six Months Out of Every Year,” which basically describes Meg as a baseball widow. Their love runs deep, however, and the other six months of the year are blissful.

Meg goes off to bed, and Joe says he’d sell his soul to get the Senators a good hitter. And thus, Mr Applegate appears. Monte Wheeler plays the devil a la Kevin Spacey – sinister yet charming. He’s the highlight of the show for me, from his kooky sense of humor to his ridiculous tantrums right down to his fiery red socks.

Before we know it, Joe Boyd is transformed into Joe Hardy, played by Thay Floyd who can only be described as musical perfection. Young Joe is exuberant and ready to play ball, but with older Joe’s brain has the foresight to establish a way to get out of the deal. If he leaves the team by 9pm on Sept. 24, he’ll go back to his old life. Otherwise, he’ll be Joe Hardy for good.

In an attempt to keep Joe under his spell, Mr Applegate brings in the infamous Lola (Tari Kelly) to seduce him. Because as you may know, “What ever Lola wants, Lola gets.” She’s a goofy character, and I found Gwen Verdon fairly obnoxious in the film, but I have to say, Kelly won me over with her take on the role. She’s spunky and silly and lovable.

James A. Rocco and Sharon Halley co-directed and co-choreographed, and I appreciate their decision to pay homage to Bob Fosse’s original choreography. They also make excellent use of the screen backdrop – as a way to change the scene and show TV footage. Oh, and there’s no intermission. But there’s a 7th Inning Stretch. Get it?

Damn Yankees is fun and funny, and at a hair over 2 hours long, the story moves along nicely. There’s a scandal or two thrown in, musical numbers that will have you humming along, and there isn’t a weak spot in the cast. The show runs now through June 28.

Read the review online here.

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