Washington-area fans didn't have to sell their souls to the devil to ensure the return of Major League Baseball to the nation's capital - though it might have seemed that way.
And Howard County theater fans will be equally happy that Damn Yankees has returned to an area stage.
Tonight, 2nd Star Productions opens a monthlong, weekends-only run of the classic at Bowie Playhouse in neighboring Whitemarsh Park.
Damn Yankees opened on Broadway in May 1955 and was set in that period, when fans cared passionately about baseball. Fed up with the winning Yankees, Washington Senators fan Joe Boyd remarks he would sell his soul if his team could win the pennant. His vow is overheard by the devil himself, masquerading as Mr. Applegate. The devilish Applegate promises to transform Joe into a 22-year-old baseball player in exchange for his soul, with the condition that Joe can change his mind about the deal any time before the end of the season.
Young Joe indeed becomes a fantastic player, leading the Senators in hitting and pitching. He wins so many fans that it is hard for Applegate to keep him under control. To help him keep Joe in line, Devil-Applegate recruits the seductive Lola from his lower domain. The story is set to some great tunes such as "Heart," "Two Lost Souls" and "Whatever Lola Wants."
At 2nd Star's rehearsal last weekend, the energetic dance troupe seemed primed for opening night, especially song and dance man Jeff Hitaffer (Rocky), who was practicing athletic moves with Hana Thornhill, who seems just right for the luscious Lola role.
Pleased with this lively group of dancers, director Jane Wingard voiced her attraction to this show: "I love the love story and the continuing interaction the whole time in familiar signals between the couple, their affectionate way of reaching out to each other.
"Young and old Joe share dominant gestures. Deja vu is created when wife Meg and [young] Joe converse across Joe's favorite chair, an empty chair that Meg sometimes touches fondly," she said. "Then there are also those great love songs - `Goodbye, Old Girl' and `A Man Doesn't Know,' that lend genuine feeling."
2nd Star's cast features Bob Brewer as middle-aged Joe and Jud Wegner as young Joe. Wegner was seen in 2nd Star's award-winning Mame last spring and more recently as the Balladeer in Colonial's Assassins. Julie Silvestro Waite plays Meg, and Baltimore restaurateur/lawyer H. Gregory Martin makes his 2nd Star debut as Mr. Applegate. A strong company of support players, including a dozen talented chorus members, completes the cast.
Production people supporting Wingard include assistant director Alex Campbell, musical director Donald K. Smith, choreographer Vicki Smith, with lighting designer Garrett Hyde and Pete Dursin serving as lighting and sound technicians. Costumes are designed by Linda Swann, and Joanne D. Wilson is the stage manager.
Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday through June 26. Tickets are $17 general admission and $14 for senior citizens and students. Bowie Playhouse is in Whitemarsh Park, off Route 3 in Bowie. Reservations: 410-757-5700.