There's a rip-roaring, thoroughly entertaining revival of the 1955 musical Damn Yankees at Evanston's Cahn Auditorium, but it's playing only through next Sunday, June 15th. If your looking for a night out that will guarantee a good time, try to see it. Light Opera Works has pulled out all the stops with a 28 piece orchestra, a talented cast of singers and dancers, crisp direction and some imaginative choreography.
Damn Yankees is a modern retelling of the Faust legend set in the 1950's in Washington, D.C. when the Yankees dominated Major League Baseball. A middle-aged baseball fanatic, Joe Boyd, trades his soul to the devil, here known as Mr. Applegate, for a chance to lead his favorite team, the Washington Senators, to victory over the New York Yankees. Applegate transforms him into a young baseball sensation, Joe Hardy. However, it doesn't take long for Joe to realize the true worth of the life he left behind and somehow he must outsmart Applegate and return to his former self.
Richard Adler and Jerry Ross wrote a terrific score that created memorable hits like "Heart", "Whatever Lola Wants", and "Two Lost Souls". Light Opera Works has gathered together a hugely talented cast that provides some of the liveliest, upbeat production numbers you'll ever see. Created by stage director/Choreographer Kevin Bellie, they are almost reason enough to see the show. At the same time he has given the principals the opportunity to express love, regret and longing with some of the more tender and serious songs in the score.
I have one problem with this production of Damn Yankees. The show revolves so completely around Applegate that he must be menacing, sly, sneaky and in complete control. Rudy Hogenmiller has chosen to play him somewhat limp-wristed and effete. The words are there but the body language and smarmy tone of voice is missing. Of course, Mr. Hogenmiller is the artistic director of Lite Opera Works and he can do anything he wants. His credentials are legion in Chicago Theatre with his role as the emcee in last season's Cabaret is still being talked about. The opening night audience gave him a standing ovation Saturday night. In my book, the show is still well worth seeing, but would be an unqualified gem had "The Devil" been more of a threat.
Performances continue Wed 6/11 at 2 pm; Fri 6/13 at 8 pm; Sat 6/14 at 8 pm and Sun 6/15 at 2 pm ay Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson Street, Evanston. Tickets at 847-920-5360 or LightOperaWorks.com
Filed under: Theatre Reviews