Marriott show hits it out of the ballpark
The choreography and dancers in Marriott Theatre’s “Damn Yankees” were so amazing opening night (April 19, 2023) I could have sworn that Rachel Rockwell, an extraordinary director and choreographer who died in 2018, had somehow returned.
Instead, we are now lucky to have Broadway and TV choreographer/actor/dancer Tyler Hanes and film/ theater/actor/director James Vasquez taking on a Marriott production.
In their hands, “Damn Yankees,” a musical comedy from 1955, still connects with baseball fans who love their team and hate the umpires’ calls. It also brings to life the dreamers who want a chance to hit it out of the ballpark.
With a clever book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop and memorable music and lyrics (You’ve gotta have “Heart”) by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, the show’s timing is so right for baseball’s spring season when anything can happen including the Chicago Cubs’ winning streak as of opening night.
And that true but improbable fact is without the help (we believe) of the show’s Faust-like character of Applegate played with perfection by long time TV, film, regional and Marriott actor Sean Fortunato.
He makes a deal with avid Washington Senators fan Joe Boyd, well portrayed by TV, Marriott and regional theater performer Ron E. Rains, to be transformed into the Senators’ savior.
Enter Boyd who is now the young, baseball phenom, Joe Hardy, brilliantly interpreted by Andrew Alstat, (Papermill, MUNY, et al), in his Marriott debut.
The kicker for Applegate and the connecting cord that makes Joe Hardy totally believable is love of Joe Boyd’s wife, Meg, played by Daniella Dalli.
Anyone who saw Marriott’s 2022 Jeff Award winning “The Sound of Music” will remember Dalli’s powerful voice as the Mother Abbess.
The other notable part is Lola as in the song, “Whatever Lola wants.” Brought on board by Applegate to diffuse Joe Hardy’s love for Meg, the plan backfires as Lola, played by Broadway and National tour star Michelle Aravena, changes from sexy vamp to an understanding girl who has fallen for Hardy.
The production has a large (more than 20 members), experienced supporting cast that includes Porchlight Music Theater and Drury Lane Theatre regulars Lorenzo Rush, Jr as Van Buren, the team’s manager, and Erica Stephan as the persistent reporter, Gloria Thorpe.
It’s easy to get so caught up in the action on stage. But audiences should pay attention to the really fine music produced by conductor/keyboardist Noah Landis and his orchestra.
In addition, costume designer Theresa Ham nailed the period and baseball uniforms.