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Review: DAMN YANKEES at Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire

You Gotta Have Heart.

The new production at Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire is Damn Yankees, a truly classic old time big Broadway musical. With a book by George Abbott (died at age 107) and Douglass Wallop and one of the great scores by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross (died at the young age of 29), this has always been an underrated musical. It should not be. It has baseball, the devil and a world class seductress.

It's possible that at one time or another, men (and women) would sell their soul to be the hero/heroine athlete (or hero/heroine of anything). That's what the premise of Damn Yankees is about. It is based upon the book The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by said Douglass Wallop published in 1954.

Washington Senators super fan Joe Boyd (Ron E. Rains) dreams of being a Senators baseball hero stating he would sell his soul. His wife Meg (Daniella Dalli ) feels neglected during the baseball season as does her friend, Sister (Heidi Kettenring) and the other suffering wives (Brooke Henderson, Daniela Rodrigo, Concetta Russo). The mysterious Mr. Applegate (Sean Fortunato) appears and makes a deal with Joe (sells his soul to the devil) so that he can be a young baseball hero. We see "old" Joe transformed into young Joe Hardy (Andrew Alstat in his Marriott debut), the new young baseball star. In the Senators locker room the manager (Lorenzo Rush, Jr.) and the ball players are having a talk about how bad the team is.

This ensemble of gifted actors really feels like a ball team. They work so well together both vocally and physically. Bravo. A female reporter Gloria Thorpe (Erica Stephan) is trying to get the scoop on the new ballplayer but no one has any info to give her and she decides to make him famous. Joe tells Applegate he is lonely for his wife so Applegate decides to introduce him to his assistant Lola (Michelle Aravena in her Marriott debut). Lola does her best to seduce to Joe but it does not work. Gloria keeps pressing Applegate about Joe's past and in a panic, Applegate insists Joe is actually Shifty McCoy, a ballplayer in Mexico who took bribes.

The team owner Mr. Welch (Jonah D. Winston) claims the Commissioner (Michael Kingston) has accused Joe of being Shifty and there will be a hearing. If found guilty, Joe cannot play ball. Applegate tells Lola that he will make Joe throw the pennant game. The hearing begins on the evening that Joe's deal with Applegate expires due to an escape clause Joe requested. Gloria and some others tell the Commissioner that they do know Joe because they all came from Hannibal MO. As time is running out, young Joe is changed back to old Joe but he still makes the catch and the Senators win the pennant. Meg is crying when old Joe returns. As they embrace, Applegate appears and is yelling at Joe but Joe ignores him. We also see Lola appear as she really is - not a seductress but an old woman. She, too, sold her soul to Applegate... Love wins.

Under James Vasquez´ expert direction, this production is lively, fun, thoughtful and touching. Tyler Hanes' choreography is another character all its own. Many times the audience erupted into applause and well deserved!!! The timeless score was under the baton of Noah Landis conducting the stellar Marriott orchestra. The lighting designed by Jesse Klug is a major part of the production. Red is used a lot... This musical is not for kids under 14 due to adult themes. For the rest of the population, I highly recommend this show. Marriott starts the baseball season with the right show and it hits a grand slam.