Damn Yankees
by Justin-Siena Theatre
Merik Mulcahy and Diana WelshIt wouldn’t be baseball without those Damn Yankees. But Joe can’t take it anymore. After decades of trying to cheer on the Washington Senators, and decades of watching the Yankees win year after year, he’d do just about anything for a chance to get the Senators past the Yankees. Enter Mr. Applegate – the suave devil who can make such dreams come true. For a little price. Just your soul…

But that may be a fair ticket price for Justin-Siena’s dynamite and imaginative production of this musical classic. Director Matthew Teague Miller (a Yankees fan, by the way) kicks off the production the only fitting way – with a singing of the national anthem. Then it’s a slideshow that chronicles the history of the Yankees championships and the Washington Senators’ championships. Or, for the Senators, their championship. Back in 1924. Elsewhere during the show, historical baseball footage is blended with baseball footage that looks historical but features the cast members in uniform at the ball field (video footage filmed and edited by Greg Zobel). Intermission has the seventh inning stretch and a couple rounds of singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame. The lobby is wallpapered with vintage baseball cards and “Damn Yankees” logos. Opening night dinner had the cast going around peddling hot dogs and Cracker Jacks.

The story begins with a bunch of men sitting in armchairs as they urge, cheer, and critique their favorite team whilst their baseball widows lament losing their husbands for six months a year. The widows are led by poor Meg Boyd, with Fiona Barbour nicely portraying the patient, loving, and currently frustrated wife of Joe Boyd – a rabid Washington Senators fan who takes his wife too much for granted during baseball season. Greg Zobel, when not filming the baseball games, is watching them as Old Joe who sings his tender ballads with a surprising and mesmerizing operatic voice. When Old Joe gets convinced to become Young Joe and lead the Senators into the pennant race, Merik Mulcahy takes over the role. Merik is another of Justin-Siena’s impressive vocal talents as featured in his ballad A Man Doesn’t Know, which he sings when he realizes how much he’s missing his wife even as he leads his beloved team to glory.

But who leads Joe into playing with fire? None other than the fire master himself, Mr. Applegate. And as such, Jeffrey Gerlomes shines as brightly as the flames shooting out of his hands. Jeffrey is a comic genius – a slick salesman with a creative sense of humor, getting the heebie-jeebies at the thought of nice things like “wives,” getting so giddily excited by evil thoughts that he doubles over in glee, reveling in the Good Old Days with a hilarious song and dance, and amusingly mimicking Lola’s failed flirtations with Joe Hardy.

Who’s Lola? She was the ugliest girl in Providence, Rhode Island. But that was centuries ago, and now she’s the hottest girl among the Devil’s minions and a temptress of those whom the Devil needs to tempt. And Diana Welsh is great in the role, sporting several humorously alluring poses as she tries unsuccessfully to lure Young Joe in Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets. That effort includes a sort-of-striptease thanks to Justin-Siena’s alum costume designer Carmen Briwa’s clever costuming and Lisa Clark-Schmeling’s choreography, where Lola slips out of her outer skirt and wraps it around the stunned and flustered Joe Hardy. Lola also leads the cast in an amusing rendition of Who’s Got the Pain – Ugh!

Elsewhere, the Devil’s real-life sister Mary Gerlomes is a riot in the role of Sister who has a lot of heart, and puts most of her heart into punishing poor Doris (Mary Kate Francis), the latter getting eggs being broken into her open palm and being treated as a puppet, dealing with all the humiliation with the patience of a saint and some great expressions. Leading the ball club in the real You Gotta Have Heart are Eric Quast, Nick Bellomy, Robert Francis, and Michael Starr who is a hit as Rocky. Leading the whole team and their fans in a celebration of newcomer Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, MO is the versatile Chelsea Holifield as investigative sports reporter Gloria Thorpe. And it’s a celebration for the ages, with Chelsea and the cast shining in Lisa Clark-Schmeling’s vibrant, fun, and inventive choreography that ends up including everything from baseball juggling to a spinning ball player who can seemingly spin forever (but who quickly drops to the ground in dizziness the moment he stops). Choreography and great lighting (Tom Durante) also help turn Two Lost Souls into a phenomenal scene.

It’s sad that two souls can be lost out of a desire for their sports team to do well or to be more physically attractive. But it’s nice when a show can warn us against such losses, and do so by hitting home runs up and down the production’s talented lineup.

Performs April 11 - 20, 2008.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~
Old Joe: Greg Zobel
Meg Boyd: Fiona Barbour
Mr. Applegate: Jeffrey Gerlomes
Sister: Mary Gerlomes
Doris: Mary Kate Francis
Joe Hardy: Merik Mulcahy
Lola: Diana Welsh
Gloria Thorpe: Chelsea Holifield
Lynch: Gianna Benetti
Welsh: John Malin
Postmaster: Michael Starr
1st Girl: Kellyn Lopes
2nd Girl: Lauren Orris
3rd Girl: Sophia French
Weston: Libby Francke
Assistant: Nicole Hamilton

~ "Six Months out of Every Year" wives ~
Gianna Benetti
Ali Brown
Libby Francke
Lauren Orris
MK Pecha
Kellyn Lopes

~ "Heart" Quartet ~
Van Buren: Eric Quast
Smokey: Nick Bellomy
Rocky: Michael Starr
Sohovick: Robert Francis

~ Ballplayers ~
Henry: Mark Marden
Lowe: Karsten Cayabyab
Linville: John Malin
Bryan: Jose Basulto
Borley: Eric Jameson
Mickey: Greg Zobel

~ Featured Dancers ~
Taylor Dorsey
Madison Bath
Danielle Devalle
Lauren Orris
Kellyn Lopes
Racquel Oropeza
Mary Gerlomes
Delaney Schmeling
Bridget Huston
Libby Francke
Mary Kate Francis
Morgan Fowler
Sophia French

Director: Matthew Teague Miller
Choreography: Lisa Clark-Schmeling
Stage Manager: Sean Hanna
Lighting Design: Tom Durante
Set Design: Matthew Teague Miller and Kyle Johnsen
Sound Design: Sound Expressions
Video Footage filmed and edited by: Greg Zobel
Music Direction: Myles Ellis
Assistant Choreography and additional Choreography by: Stacy Arriaga
Costume Supervisor: Mark Marden
"Lola's" Costumes Designed by: Carmen Briwa


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