Friday, March 10, 2000
Theatre Review 'Damn Yankees' Hits a Grand Slam at CCHS
Concord-Carlisle High School's production of the musical Damn Yankees is a winning combination of high energy and heart. In his first endeavor at CCHS, director Chuck Brown has set a high goal for his performers to reach, and they have not only met it, they have surpassed it.
The play, with a book by George Abbot and Douglas Wallop and words and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, tells the tale of Joe Boyd, a middle-aged Washington Senators fan, who sells his soul to the devil (Mr. Applegate) in order to have the chance to help his beleaguered team beat the Yankees and win the pennant. When the dowdy Joe, fervently played by Tucker Briggs, and his lonely wife Meg, played winningly by Erin Johnson, lead the chorus in the first production number, "Six Months Out of Every Year," the enthusiastic tone is set for this line drive of a musical. The play's exuberant appeal is thanks in no small part to the talents of Danny Rooney as Mr. Applegate. He may not quite succeed in stealing Joe's soul, but he does steal the show with his spot-on portrayal of a contemporary Beelzebub. His song, "The Good Old Days," brought the audience out of their seats.
No one-man show
But this is by no means a one-man show. Eliza Xenakis plays Lola, Applegate's femme fatale henchwoman, and is drop-dead wonderful, especially when she vamps her way through "A Little Brains, a Little Talent" and "Whatever Lola Wants." Mike Lazar, as Joe Boyd's younger incarnation Joe Hardy, gives a heartfelt performance, especially in the lovely duet with Meg, "Near to Me." As Gloria, the nosy sports reporter, Caitlin McHugh plays a perky dynamo who dances up a storm in the number "Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo." And Greg Case, as the always hopeful manager of the Senators, strikes a familiar chord in the heart of every Red Sox fan when he belts out "Heart."
Showcasing secondary roles
One of the signs of a good production is the way the director uses and showcases the secondary roles, and this production is worth seeing for those secondary roles alone. The ballplayers, among whose members are Carlisle's own Tim Lee and Ben Morse, provide a hilarious backdrop to many scenes and manage to stop the show with two of their numbers, "The Game" and "Heart." Their antics are note-perfect and never overdone. Meg's friends from Missouri are played with gusto and great comic timing by Alexandra Granato and Kelly Allen.
The many dance numbers prove an ambitious undertaking in this production, and former Carlisle resident Jenn Micarelli Webb has wrought wonders. Eye-dazzling choreography in "Shoeless Joe" and "Who's Got the Pain" is only surpassed by the dancing in "Two Lost Souls." It's obvious that talent runs in the family (for years, Jenn's mother Janice choreographed Carlisle's musicals) and Jenn's innovative dance steps help raise the performance level of this production through the roof. Local dancers Nicole Babine and Christina Fiorentino shine as part of a stellar chorus line.
Visually, this play is stunning. Dancers flicker behind scrims like faintly-remembered dreams. Backdrops change seamlessly from lush woods to frenetic stadium and locker room. Many of these achievements can be credited to two Carlisle nativesChris Wurts, who designed the lighting, and Ian Crowther, who served as assistant director.
Strong pit orchestra
The whole cast is supported by the strong performance of the pit orchestra which, with the exception of one performer, is comprised solely of students. Under the direction of Al Dentino, the orchestra's performance ratchets up the professionalism of the production. I've never been to a musical before where the audience left buzzing about how impressive the pit orchestra was.
The play continues through this weekend on Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8 and are available at the door of the CCHS auditorium. While you are waiting to buy your tickets, you can enjoy the baseball park atmosphere in the lobby, complete with popcorn and program hawkers. Chuck Brown, it seems, has thought of everything, and Damn Yankees is a spectacular opening to what will hopefully be a long career at CCHS.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito