Arts & Leisure

A classic baseball musical with heart

“DAMN YANKEES” in an excellent revival at the Rose Center Theater in Westminster (RCT photo).

By Thom deMartino

What would you sacrifice to fulfill your fondest wish?

In “Damn Yankees”, now playing at the Rose Center Theater, it’s the middle of the 1950’s in Washington D.C., and Joe Boyd (Tim Nelson) is lamenting how his beloved hometown baseball team, the Washington Senators, have no real hitters in their lineup. Every year the neighborhood husbands are glued to their television screens, hoping the team will win the pennant: and every year they end up crushed, inevitably by their cursed rivals, the “damn” New York Yankees. If only he was in the peak of his youth, and could play for the Senators — he’d give anything!

Cue the ominous rumble of thunder: and suddenly appears the charming and devilish Mr. Applegate (Chris Caputo) before the surprised Joe.

Sly Ol’ Nick can give Joe what he’s always wanted, to help his Senators make it to the pennant — at the cost of his immortal soul, of course. But the wily Joe is unwilling to guarantee the loss of his soul and his loving, if exasperated, wife Meg (Alexis Karol), and negotiates Applegate into adding an “escape clause.” He keeps his soul and returns to his wife if he walks away before 9 pm on September 24… the night before the Senators’ final game of the season.

And so, a bargain is struck.

Suddenly young, the new “Joe Hardy” (Jerred Yeash) is whisked away by Applegate to the Senators’ irascible Coach Van Buren (Robin Harrison), who’s already in a battle of wills with plucky and persistent sports reporter Gloria Thorpe (Amanda Hinchee). When she infiltrates the locker room, looking for a scoop, Hardy fits the bill: as he proves his fitness to join the team, with hit after hit out of the park of the Senators’ best pitches.

Despite his immediate success and fame, Joe finds himself continually longing for home and Meg, a tendency that’s beginning to concern the normally unflappable Applegate. Unleashing his secret weapon, the slinky and sultry seductress Lola (Autumn Kirkpatrick), the trickster thinks he’s hedged his bets — but with the good-hearted man inspiring both his team and his town, the odds may not be in the devil’s favor…

This is still another in a long line of excellent Tim Nelson-directed Rose Center productions (who of course has double-duty as the elder Joe, as well): and it’s an inspiring addition, at that. Yeash’s Joe’s love for the game and his crew is positively tangible to the audience, raising both teammates’ and viewers spirits alike, while the deceptively bumbling but earnest Senators players ensemble shine in their musical and dance numbers, with true “heart.” Supporting cast such as Hinchee’s witty Gloria, and Kirkpatrick’s alluring and empathetic Lola, enchant with their lively and well-rounded performances.

But the devil always has the best tunes, as they say, and Caputo’s comically-menacing Applegate gets nearly all the best lines as well — including some hysterical anachronistic moments (like breaking out a smartphone to ask Siri a question.) He oozes a wicked magnetism, like a cross between the slickest used-car salesman and the most mustache-twirling vaudevillian villain that you’ve ever seen (and perhaps just a hint of Henry Higgins from “My Fair Lady”), owning nearly every scene he’s in.

With excellent and acrobatic choreography, toe-tapping musical performances, and lots and lots of heart, “Damn Yankees” is one to catch now, in it’s final weekend at the Rose Center Theater.

“Damn Yankees”, Chris Caputo, Autumn Kirkpatrick and Jerred Yeash star in a musical tale of what a man will do to achieve his dreams, and the costs therein. Playing through July 30 at the Rose Center Theater, 14140 All American Way, Westminister, CA 92683. Ticketing information at rosecentertheater.com or (714) 793-1150, ext 1. Appropriate for all ages.

 

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