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Talent and Charisma in “Damn Yankees”

Cast does fine job with classic baseball story

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Riley Morrison leads the Senators in

Riley Morrison leads the Senators in "The Game" in the Drama Club's production of "Damn Yankees."

GWG

GWG

Riley Morrison leads the Senators in "The Game" in the Drama Club's production of "Damn Yankees."

Ian MacLeod, Editor-in-Chief

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Under the direction of Mr. Shannon, with musical direction from Mrs. Harrington, the Abington High School Drama Club gave another stellar performance in March with their rendition of “Damn Yankees” at the Frolio Auditorium. It’s a musical comedy about baseball (with a Faustian twist) that made its Broadway debut in 1955 (Tony Award for Best Musical).

Adapted from the 1954 novel “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant” by Douglass Wallop, and written by playwright George Abbott, “Damn Yankees” follows Joe Boyd (played by Mike Nickley), a run of the mill real estate agent who, much to the dismay of wife Meg (Leah Alessi), has a fervent passion for baseball and wants nothing more than to see his beloved Washington Senators beat the New York Yankees and win the pennant. But, when the “devilish” Applegate (Travis Torchetti) offers to turn him into star hitter “Joe Hardy” (Dave Lyons) so he can help the Senators win in exchange for his soul, Joe Boyd is forced to consider what is more important – living his dream or being with his one true love.

Co-starring were Nicole Bradbury as Lola, Nick Freberg as Van Buren, the Senator’s manager, Lindsey Collins as Gloria Thorpe, Cam MacLeod as Commissioner Welch, Laurel Blanchard and Corrine Easton as Doris and Sister respectively, and Riley Morrison and Daniel Hankins as Rocky and Smokey, two Washington Senator ballplayers.

With music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, “Damn Yankees” had a great ’50s era sound. Its music can feel a little too traditional at times, but that is to be expected for a play first produced in 1955. Alessi, Collins and Bradbury are the standout songstresses. Alessi, who played female lead Morticia Adams in last year’s “The Addams Family,” showed off her talent in the reprises of “A Man Doesn’t Know.”

As the inquisitive reporter, Collins led the ensemble, a role filled by the Washington Senators players including featured dancers Caroline Bradbury, Alana Burgess, Eileen Feeney and Morgan Sweeney, during the showstopping dance number “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal Mo.”

However, Nicole Bradbury, as Applegate’s seductive assistant, definitely got the most applause, with her years of competitive dance shining through during her fantastic solo performance of “Whatever Lola Wants.” And, Blanchard and Easton’s portrayals of Doris and Sister stood out as great comic acting, bringing a lot of well channeled energy to what might have otherwise been fairly inconsequential roles.

The male actors deserve attention for their performances too, with Torchetti practically stealing the show as the satanic salesman Applegate. While his character is fortunate enough to have some of the best lines in the musical, the charisma that he was able to put behind them really sells it. And, Freberg, Morrison, Hankins and Marc Vento  (as Vernon) get to show their talents off as well with “Heart,” the show’s signature number.

Nickley and Lyons, the show’s male leads, did great as well. Nickley, who previously had only one song and a couple of grunts as Lurch in “The Adams Family,” stands on his own with solos during the sorrowful “Goodbye Old Girl” and the finale’s reprise of “A Man Doesn’t Know,” alongside Alessi. Lyons showed talent too while singing and acting opposite Alessi, Bradbury, Nickley and Torchetti (“A Man Doesn’t Know” “Near to You”and “Two Lost Souls”) especially considering this was his first year performing with the drama club.

Overall, this wasn’t my favorite production, but this could be more the fault of the musical itself than the performance. The pacing felt disjointed, as if pieces of it were cut out (though this writer has been assured that that was not the case). However, “Damn Yankees” was well worth seeing, if only because the whole cast, from the ensemble right up to the stars of the show, oozed talent and love for their craft, making it quite an enjoyable night.

 

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Talent and Charisma in “Damn Yankees”