Left - Pia Morley & David Harris. Cover - Matt Hetherington & Pia Morley
Anyone who has seen The Pajama Game, will know what a fun, bright Broadway musical that show is. Damn Yankees was a successful follow-up for that show’s original creators Richard Adler and Jerry Ross.
Written and set in a 50s America, the original creative team, including Bob Fosse brought to life this simple story about a nation’s fixation on baseball.
Avid middle-aged fan Joe Boyd (David Whitney) grabs an opportunity to save his struggling team the Washington Senators by making a pact with the devil, Mr Applegate (fiendishly played by Matt Hetherington). In return for his soul, he is transformed into a young star player called Joe Hardy (David Harris) and is able to turn around the future of the team and become a national hero.
Unfortunately sacrifices have to be made and Joe has had to leave behind his life and his wife of over 20 years Meg (Anne Wood). Needless to say, he soon realises that what he had was far more fulfilling, and seeks a way to return to his old life.
Like The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees is a show that churns out memorable musical numbers and holds up extremely well for audiences (the original Australian production celebrated its 50th anniversary this year).
One of its many strengths is the decision to give showcase musical numbers to its many principal performers, not just the three main leads.
Six Months Out of Every Year is a terrific opener that sets the tone of the show. Heart is one of the more famous tunes and is well delivered by Matt Heyward and the male ensemble. Melissa Langton gets to shine with Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo, while The Game proves to be another showcase for the male ensemble.
All performers give terrific performances and lend great support to the three main leads.
David Harris is perfect as the young star player who longs to be back home, and is especially touching with Goodbye, Old Girl and Near to You.
Matt Hetherington proves yet again that he is a natural comic actor and not restricted to playing romantic leads. His rendition of The Good Old Days is especially memorable.
Pia Morley as Mr Applegate’s sexy accomplice Lola steps into her first leading lady role with great aplomb, and delivers the show’s most famous tune Whatever Lola Wants oozing confidence and sensuality. This is definitely a rising star making her mark.
The creative team headed by director Terence O’Connell bring the show to life with the effective design allowing the action to take place centre stage and the orchestra seated above.
The minimal faults lie within the show itself. While the dance numbers are very effective for the male ensemble (mainly revolving around baseball moves and a team atmosphere). The women unfortunately get lacklustre opportunities, but still make the most of them.
The ending, when it comes, is also a surprise. Not for any revelation (there were only happy endings in the 50s) but because it is so sudden and almost under-written.
Damn Yankees however, remains an entertaining toe-tapping show that is well worth seeing and almost worth a full-scale revival.
The Production Company presents
Words and Music by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross
Book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop
Venue: State Theatre
Dates: 20 – 24 August 2008
Times: Wednesday – Saturday at 7.30 pm;
Matinees: Saturday at 2.00 pm; Sunday at 3.00 pm
Tickets: $38 - $79
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 136 166