Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 2, 2014

Damn Yankees

Goodspeed, East Haddam, CT
through June 21, 2014
by Walt Haggerty

Praying for a Red Sox win? Turn off the Sports Channel and head for Connecticut. Yes, East Haddam, CT, where Goodspeed musicals have launched a winning season with that old favorite, “Damn Yankees.” This time around instead of dealing with the familiar frustrations of Washington Senators fans, a brisk and hilarious new adaptation of the original book puts the Red Sox in the spotlight – and it works – brilliantly! Joe DiPietro is due well-deserved credit for this swiftly moving, laugh-filled adaptation of the book, and the Richard Adler/Jerry Ross score is still one of the best.

As is customary at Goodspeed, casting is impeccable – every performer is spot-on perfect. Their Red Sox team actually looks like a baseball team instead of a chorus line. Each player has his own distinct personality and maintains that characterization throughout. Special credit goes to Director Daniel Goldstein for that accomplishment and to Choreographer Kelli Barclay, who has devised a series of spirited, challenging and inventive ensemble dance numbers that have the audience cheering. The cast performances of “Heart” and “Shoeless Joe” are show-stoppers, especially the latter as led by Lora Lee Gayer as Gloria Thorpe.

David Beach’s delightfully deceptive, double-dealing Devil delivers the kind of evil that audiences love to hate. The irony of his “Good Old Days” solo is priceless. As his seductive temptress/assistant, Lola, Angel Reda is perfection, most notably in “Whatever Lola Wants.” Stephen Mark Lukas is every inch the strong, stalwart hero who really could be the answer to the Red Sox prayer. And WOW – what a voice.

As Meg and Joe Boyd, Ann Arvia and James Judy, respectively, bring endearing moments of warmth to their characters, notably with “ A Man Doesn’t Know” and “Near to You.” Kristine Zbornik and Allyce Beaseley, as Meg’s best friends and over-the-top Red Sox supporters, demonstrate the extremes of dedicated fans.

“Damn Yankees,” resurrected from the memory book of great musicals of the past, has been given a well-deserved, vibrant new lease on life in this current Goodspeed production. It’s a winner.