THE HOME RUN HIT ‘DAMN YANKEES’ IS ALL HEART AND A SURE WINNER
TRI-VALLEY REP BRINGS THE DEVIL BACK TO BASEBALL WITH LOLA AND SHOELESS JOE HARDY
Shoeless Joe Hardy is up to bat at Tri Valley Rep’s charming production of DAMN YANKEES. The baseball season is in full form at The Firehouse Center for the Arts in Pleasanton Ca as TVRT brings the classic story of Faust meets professional baseball. DAMN YANKEES is now on stage through May 15th and features 25 dynamite local actors who love America’s favorite pastime. Produced by AD Kathleen Breedveld, she brings TVRT back to the Firehouse stage with the perfect creative team. Director John Maio says has waited two years to bring this cast to the baseball diamond “It's been a long road for us all. I have been blessed to work with the many people who made this production possible. Theater is a team sport. The cast and the production team have dedicated countless hours to make this a success.”
This musical comedy, which debuted on Broadway in 1955, with words and music by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross and book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop. This is a modern retelling of a Faust legend. Set in the 1950s, it shows the extent one loyal fan would go in order for his Washington Senators baseball team to beat the ever-strong New York Yankees. Director Maio and Musical Director Sierra Dee brought together a stunning cast of 25 to tell the story of Shoeless Joe Hardy and his friend the Devil in disguise as Mr Applegate.
It’s the era of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, and the historic rivalry of the New York Yankees. As the story opens we meet hard working wife Meg Boyd played by the superb Susan Tonkin. Meg is in a non baseball mood as her husband, Joe, sinks deeper into the baseball season on their television. Both sing “Six Months out of the Year”, Joe played by the dapper Jess Martinez with Tonkin at his side the cast of age appropriate peers join them in celebration of six months of their losing baseball team.
Joe is devoted to his Senators, a team that unfortunately cannot win a game, especially against the Yankees. After a particularly devastating loss, Joe proclaims he would sell his soul if the Senators could just beat the Yankees. He is transformed by his seducer, a certain Mr. Applegate, into a much younger man with a batting average that cannot be beaten and feet too large to wear his own shoes. Both older and younger Joe sing “Goodbye Old Girl” and show off their delightful voices. And that’s just the beginning of his seduction by the devilish Applegate played by local favorite Ray D’ Ambrosio.
The terrific Dominic Lessa plays the younger transformed Joe with a sincere heart and standout voice through a number with one of Applegate's favors. He is given access to the seductress and the incomparable Lola played by the sizzling Jen Maggio. D’Ambrosio is devilishly delightful as the smooth-talking, fire-brandishing Applegate, while Lessa is cast as the down-to-earth Joe, who just wants to play baseball well so his team can win, then return to his wife. Meanwhile Maggio does a superb job in playing the vixen, Lola, who pulls out all the stops to help Applegate win his bet.
But the highlight of this cast are the baseball players - all team members of the Washington Senators. The vibrant team show off their perfect timing in the classic song “Heart” featuring coach Van Buren played by the lovable Elmer Strasser. The full throttle Nico Jaochico, Steven McCloud, and Russell Mangan carry the “Heart” open; the introduction of the marvelous baseball players. The flawless Megan Bartlett is a powerhouse as the snide newspaper reporter Gloria who nicknames the new player “Shoeless Joe Hardy”. The team joins her in the show stopping number “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal Mo” that also features baseball players Russel Mangan, Darrien Cabreana, Ryan Ducker, Kyle Herrera, and the high flying hitters Leo Diaz, Justin Sabino, and Elijah Maravilla.
The 25-member cast clearly has the acting, singing and dancing chops for the show. Kurt Hornbacker, MJ Rennels, Tom Ferris, Deborah Lowder. Warren Hanson, Rachelle King, Michelle Freschi and Amanda Ross fill out the cast with wonderful performances. The six musicians, conducted by Sierra Dee Rankin, are perched above the baseball diamond on a set designed by Maio Thomas Curtin and scenic artist Elinaor Almagor that features an upper bleachers set for the cast to watch Shoeless Joe slam his homeruns over the Firehouse audience. The costumes were coordinated by Breedveld and Patricia Krohn-Pope and features the bright hellish red for both Lola and Applegate.
The locker room opens to fill the main stage as Eddie and Lola - change the tune of the score to a mombo in the show favorite “Who’s Got The Pain” originally choreographed by Bob Fosse, TVRT choreographers Megan Hornbacker and Sarah Schori bring that same energy to classic dance hit. Other well-choreographed and well-danced numbers were Maggio’s solo, “A Little Brains, a Little Talent” and “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets.” The lighting design by Erica Engel adds much to the magic of Applegates wishes and dramatic moments in the final games.
“You gotta have heart … miles and miles and miles of heart” is the advice coach Van Buren offers the team during their losing streak. A huge amount of heart is the crowd pleasing experience in DAMN YANKEES that makes this a sure winner - there are no losers in this cast. The company gave it their all, and the opening night crowd reacted with a wonderful standing ovation. I did not catch the foul ball. Next up TVRT presents NEWSIES at the Bankhead in Livermore opens July 16th, but in the meantime bring your baseball mitt and catch that foul ball.
Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre Presents:
Score by Adler and Ross and a devilish book by George Abbot
Director: John Maio
Musical Director: Sierra Dee-Rankin
Choreographer: Meghan Hornbacker
Producer: Kathleen Breedveld
CLOSES SUNDAY MAY 15TH
RUNNING TIME 2 HOURS 30 MIN WITH ONE INTERMISSION
PERFORMED AT THE FIREHOUSE ARTS CENTER
4444 Railroad Avenue Pleasanton, CA
Photo’s by Ben Kranz, Bob Bronzan and Vince Mediaa
INTERVIEWS WITH CAST - WITH VMEDIARTS XUN ZHANG