Incline’s Damn Yankees is Devilishly Engaging

Review by Laurel Humes of Damn Yankees: Incline Theatre

William Jackson and Rachel Perin in “Damn Yankees”

I’m still humming “You’ve Got to Have Heart,” one of the pleasures of Damn Yankees, the baseball themed musical now onstage at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater.

The 1955 show has historical fact – there was a Washington Senators team and the New York Yankees did dominate Major League Baseball. And baseball was truly America’s pastime.

So it’s not hard to imagine a middle-aged die-hard Senators’ fan named Joe, watching another losing game, proclaiming “I’d sell my soul for a long-ball hitter.”

But then – he does! With the added enticement that he can be transformed into the (younger) star player who will lead the Senators to the pennant.

The pact with Mr. ‘The Devil’ Applegate (Rodger Pille) is made by the older Joe (Tim Perrino) and carried out by the younger Joe (William Jackson). Indeed, the Senators do keep winning once Joe joins the team. There are a lot of unlikely plot twists from there to the happy ending.

A realistic plot, however, is not the reason 1950’s musicals are revived. It’s for the songs, the dancing and, in this show, the nostalgia. These are some reasons to see Incline Theater’s Damn Yankees:

The terrific opening number, “Six Months Out of Every Year,” when Joe’s wife Meg (a wonderful Michelle Wells) laments losing her husband to baseball from April to September. He is planted in front of the TV; she tries to have a conversation. Soon they are joined by five other couples, all the husbands in swivel rockers, tuned only to the game, all the wives trying vainly to get their attention.
Rodger Pille’s devil is dapper, in dress and manner, as he maneuvers Joe through their pact. Pille is not the center of every scene, but his face is so expressive, he could be. Reacting also is acting.
Standout number by Renee Stoltzfus as Gloria the Reporter, backed up by the Senators team, of “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo.” She is an accomplished singer and dancer.
The fine voices and high energy of the young people in the cast, at least 8 of whom are just starting or in college. This includes William Jackson as young Joe, whose singing voice, acting and mannerisms belie his youth.
1950’s nostalgia, meticulously created by set designer Brett Bowling and costumer and properties designer Caren Brady.
A hometown flavor – you will hear the voices of Reds’ games broadcaster Marty Brennaman and former star Pete Rose as (not so inside joke) the baseball commissioner.
However … Damn Yankees the show is kind of creaky, repetitive and overlong – 62 years after it opened on Broadway. Still, thanks to Incline Theater for reviving it with a competent production.

Damn Yankees is part of Cincinnati Landmark Productions’ Summer Classic Series. It runs through June 18 at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater, 801 Matson Place, in the Incline District of East Price Hill. For tickets, call 513-241-6550 or go to www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com.

 

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