The Tony Award-winning musical Damn Yankees, with Book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop, and Words and Music by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, opened this past weekend at the Heritage Players at the Rice Auditorium in Catonsville, MD.
What could be more American than baseball, small towns, and true love, and especially playing during this year’s baseball playoffs?
I felt like I stepped out into a game at Camden Yard. Courtesy of Sound Designer Stuart Kazanow, (who also provides the wonderful lighting), to begin the show, Camden Yards Orioles announcer Ryan Wagner puns his way through the ‘announcements’ telling the audience to shut off their cell phones, and points out the exit. And there are real and FREE ballpark goodies to nosh on: peanuts and cracker jacks! You may even want to bring your baseball glove with you!
Director Michael Hartsfield and Choreographer Brook Urquhart are having a blast with this classic, as does Musical Director Stephen Michael Deininger and his fine musicians. The dance numbers are smartly choreographed by Brook Urquhart, and reminded me of the original Bob Fosse dances for “Who’s Got the Pain,” and “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, MO.” It brought back a lot of fond memories of the original Broadway production and the film which utilized some of the original Broadway cast.
There are several performers who hit a grand slam with their performances:
Ryan Geiger’s devilish performance as Mr. Applegate burns up the stage, especially during his hot showstopper “Those Were the Good Old Days,” where the devil reminisces about dark and evil accomplishments of some of the most famous murderers of the past – the good ol’ days!
The young Joe Hardy is portrayed by Jim Gerhardt, and he has an exceptional voice, as displayed in “A Man Doesn’t Know” and “Near to You,” with Susanne Young. And he has a blast dancing and singing with Katie Sheldon in “Two Lost Souls.”
The seductress Lola is played by the triple-threat Katie Sheldon. She is a great singer, actress, and dancer and she is on fire when she steams her way through “Whatever Lola Wants” and “Who’s Got the Pain?”
Ashley Gerhardt captures the feisty woman sports reporter, Gloria Thorpe. She sings and dances up a storm in “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, MO.”
Suzanne Young is extraordinary as Meg Boyd, the wife left behind by her Joe when he transforms into Joe Hardy, superstar. The confusion, sadness, and hurt is painted all over her face. Her duets with the young and old Joes are heart-wrenching. Kevin Kelehan plays her husband, Joe Boyd, the soul-seller. The two have a sweet chemistry together on the stage.
John Sheldon is a likable Coach Van Buren. Another standout is Terrence Bennett as Senator Player – Rocky. He also plays the role of Eddie, dancing and singing with Lola in “Who’s Got the Pain.” Bennett demonstrates his smoothness and agility in that number and others throughout the show.
The set design team: Andrea Bush, Al Gillis, Director Michael Hartsfield, and AL Gillis have created a simple but effective set that takes the audience to the dugout of the ballpark and a quaint Chevy Chase home – and back and forth. It works seamlessly.
Robin Trenner’s costumes replicate the 50s in the every day attire, but even more masterfully, in the baseball uniforms. Everything looks authentic.
Lighting Designer Stuart Kazanow adds in a little hell with some red lighting and keeps the lighting simple and effective and letting the story take center stage.
The Heritage Players have hit a home run with their “Damn Yankees.” There’s a lot of heart in this production. Don’t miss out on all the fun. And for Oriole fans out there, it’s great fun to see the Yankees be damned!
Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes, with one intermission.
Damn Yankees plays through October 31, 2015 at Heritage Players performing in Rice Auditorium at the Spring Grove Hospital Campus – 55 Wade Avenue, in Catonsville, MD. For tickets, purchase them at the door, or online.