Harlequin's 'Yankees' is energetically entertaining

April 04, 1991|By Winifred Walsh | Winifred Walsh,Evening Sun Staff

Some excellent voices distinguish the entertaining Harlequi production of the Richard Adler and Jerry Ross musical blockbuster "Damn Yankees."

Based on Douglass Wallop's book, "The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant," the show made musical history when it opened in New York in 1955 starring Ray Walston, Gwen Verdon and Stephen Douglass. A smashing success on Broadway, the show ran for 1,019 performances.

The script, written by George Abbott and Wallop, features a baseball theme and a bevy of rousing song and dance numbers -- "You Gotta Have Heart," "Shoeless Joe From Hannibal Mo," "The Good Old Days," "Two Lost Souls," the sentimental "Goodbye Old Girl" and the sizzler "Whatever Lola Wants."

Crisply directed by Kelly Walters, the production sustains a snappy pace and offers, in most cases, energetic and colorful performances by a talented cast. But dancing is not the strong point here. The choreography by Jerry Yoder is too studied and unimaginative -- perhaps because the performers are mainly actors, not dancers.

In this version, Jesse Foreman is a standout in the role of Mr. Applegate, a slick, tricky devil (the real thing) who strikes a bargain with a middle-aged baseball fanatic, Joe Boyd, played by fine classical vocalist, Jim Bradfield.

Boyd sells his soul for a chance to play ball for his beloved Washington Senators. Leaving home and his beloved "old girl", Meg, Boyd sheds 30 years and becomes young Joe Hardy, the marvel that leads the team to the championship against the accursed Yankees.

Worrying that Joe will try to renege on his part of the deal, the modern day Beezlebub summons a 179-year-old man-killing sorceress, Lola, to entice the naive ball player. In the meantime a snoopy female reporter, well played by Liz Donohoe Weber, suspects Joe is not who he says he is, and all "hell" breaks loose.

Gabrielle Dunmyer is certainly an affective vocalist who clowns amusingly in the role of Lola. But somehow the sexy, grand vamp quality is missing as she supposedly devastates Joe with her scorching seduction number.

Laura Stark and Victoria Winter delight as two man-starved, overly eager baseball fans. Bruce Evans is a stalwart Joe Hardy with a pleasing baritone. Stephanie Reuer's rich soprano blends nicely with Bradfield's baritone in the reprise of the sweet, "Near to You."

Outstanding in the excellent male chorus is Michael Sharp as Smokey.

"Damn Yankees" will run at the Harlequin Dinner Theatre through April 14.

*

Worth mentioning . . . .

Johnny Holliday and Liz Donohoe Weber are both up for Helen Hayes Awards for their leading roles in the Harlequin production of "Me and My Girl." The show has also been nominated for Best Musical Production.

Local actor Steve Aronson, now working out of New York, was assigned three days work with Dustin Hoffman in the new "Billy Bathgate" film in which Hoffman plays Dutch Schultz, a killer indicted for tax evasion.

"It is the best acting experience I have ever had," Aronson says. "Dustin is funny, intense and completely professional. He and I worked out our scene -- I have three lines -- over eight hours. There was a wonderful give and take."

Aronson says he also has a good scene in "True Colors" with John Cusack and James Spader. Aronson plays a Miami Beach newspaper reporter covering a trial. The actor has been busy making commercials including a national Kraft Microwave Entrees commercial. "Things are surely looking up," says the former Maryland attorney turned full-time actor.

Correction: In last week's column, William Marcus Runnebaum was inadvertently listed as playing the role of Lloyd in the Fells Point production of "Reckless" by Craig Lucas. Runnebaum is turning in an excellent performance in the Lucas satire as Tom, the heroine's wayward husband. Richard Dean Stover is playing the part of Lloyd. Apologies to both actors.

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