Damn Yankees - High-energy hokumMay 1, 2012 @ 10:04 am (Updated: 12:10 pm - 5/1/12 )
It's a big day for theatre-goers. The Tony nominations are out, honoring the best that Broadway had to offer this past year.
The frontrunners for Best Musical happen to be two shows that started out as movies: ONCE, a love story about an Irish busker, and NEWSIES, about turn-of-the-century newspaper hawkers, will battle it out for the most important Tony Award.
Among the four nominees for Best Play is a play that is currently on tap at the Seattle Rep, Clybourne Park.
And Philip Seymour Hoffman's Death of a Salesman is expected to win the Tony for Best Play Revival.
And speaking of revivals, you can also see the Tony winner for Best Musical for 1955 in a lively recreation at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre.
DAMN YANKEES is high-energy hokum. This co-production, with the Papermill Playhouse, proves that this almost 60- year-old musical can be both timeless and dated.
First the timeless part. The premise is that a long- suffering Washington Senators fan offers to sell his soul to the devil in exchange for beating out the New York Yankees for the American League pennant. The Senators in the 40's and 50's were the losing-est team in baseball and the Yankees were coming off 5 straight World Series when the book and then show were written. A lot of Mariners fans no doubt can relate.
The devil takes the man up on his offer and we watch as this middle-aged fan is transformed into a young baseball phenom who turns around the fortunes of his beloved Senators.
One of the best known songs from the show is a kind of anthem for losing teams everywhere:
A great slugger we haven't got
A great pitcher we haven't got
A great ball club we haven't got
What do we got?
We got Heart, all you really need is Heart.
Another baseball song, however, shows the more dated side of Damn Yankees. Here the players sing about their team rules - no smoking, no drinking, and no dames. The verses are all about being tempted by women, and the chorus is all about how the players turn their back on temptation ... for the love of the GAME.
Don't give in.
Every rule we shall obey, to be sure.
Cuz to win we gotta stay good and pure.
Good and Pure.
Good and pure? Thanks to the steroids era, and the sport's expose in Jim Bouton's "Ball Four" book before that, this sentiment seems hopelessly quaint and naive. As do the gender stereotypes - all the wives, for instance, express their frustrations with their husbands by baking cakes ... just like 50's housewives ... which of course they are. And the way these middle-aged women all shriek with delight at the handsome, young baseball players ... it's a little embarrassing. Of course, musicals often deal in broad caricatures but in DAMN YANKEES they seem a little much.
That being said, if you're interested in watching a pretty straight-forward replica of what the show must have been like when it played for over a thousand performances on Broadway in the mid-1950's, this production is top- notch. A fantastic cast with very good voices and top notch dancing.
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