Sunday, July 6, 2008

Damn Good Yankees

As I wait on a rain delay in the Wimbledon Men's final, let me give a shout out to myself for connecting two routers to my aging desktop computer, so now I have a wireless internet signal in my apartment. I can now use my laptop without mooching off of the increasingly tempermental "Jenn's Home Office" signal. It took me almost 24 hours to figure it out and two calls to 24-hour tech-support (they're helpful instruction to "keep at it!" really inspired me), but now it works. Hooray!

So, last night I went to see Damn Yankees which is playing for three weeks as part of Encores' Summer Series. Damn Yankees is another one of those classic shows which i am familiar with, but have never seen as a full production. There are some showtunes in that then became standards, especially "Heart" "A Little Brains, A Little Talent" and "Whatever Lola Wants." but i didn't really know what to expect from the show overall. All weekend I've been knocked around by this horrible chest cold, but I was all medicated up and ready for a good time. Heading over to New York City Center for the show, I was dressed a little warmly for the humid day because when I saw Pirates of Penzance at City Center a few weeks ago, the theater was effing cold. It was a good call, as City Center was once again freezing. And that place is huge! I don't understand how they get the AC as cranked up in there as they do, but seriously, if you go see the show bring a jacket or a sweater.

Now as for the actual show: I thought it was great! I LOVED the score. It reminded me of In The Heights's score in the sense that it has a lot of variety to it. The lyrics are fun and clever and the melodies are beautiful and catchy. I was also surprised by how touching some of the ballads were. "A Man Doesn't Know" and "Near To You" were performed with a lot of longing and tenderness.

The basic plot of the show is that the Yankees keep winning the pennant year after year, so the Devil makes a deal with a middle-aged fan of the Washington Senators named Joe to turn Joe into an ace slugger so his team can beat the Yankees in excahnge for The Devil getting Joe's soul. As the Senators climb ut the rankings, The Devil and Joe engage in a battle of wits for control of Joe's soul. Joe tries to hold on to himself by staying anchored to his wife, and the Devil tries to tempt him away with help from the secudtive Lola. The Yankees loom large as a presence but are never seen.

The cast is particularly strong. PJ Benjamin and Randy Graff are particularly touching as Joe and Meg Boyd. Cheyenne Jackson is strong and centered and sounds beautiful as the younger Joe Hardy. It's nice to see him costumed in something other than cut-off shorts and a tank top. It's much easier to take his talent seriously in this production than Xanadu.

The two headliners are Sean Hayes and Jane Krakowski as Applegate (The Devil) and Lola. Hayes is very very good. The comic timing needed for Applegate suits him well. I thought he didn't fall into villainous mosutache twirling or too much scenery chewing. His Act 2 solo number "Those were the good old days" really delighted. Jane is a definite comedienne. She's beautiful, but much like on 30 Rock, she doesn't really lead with her sexiness. This is interesting, because Lola, while funny seems like an intrinsically sexy lady. I wonder how much of Jane's goofball nature is a departure from the traditionally interpretation of Lola, but it worked for her. She was very endearing. And while you don't want Joe to go for Lola instead of his wife, you do root for her, and her gorwing kinship with Joe as the play goes on is something sweet.

If there was anything I wasn't really thrilled with, it was the dancing. The choreography was fine, but there was just something missing in the execution. "Shoeless Joe From Hannibal, Mo" felt like it went on for a really long time as did the end of Act 1 dance number which looked like it was supposed to be a showcase for dance, except it just kinda... was there. The dancing wasn't bad, it just didn't blow me away, either.

Overall, i thought the show was really quite good and i was glad i went to see it. Highly recommended. I also kept up my streak of having weird set problems happening at my performances. Something strange happened when they were lowering in one of the sets during a scene change. The front scrimm was down, but it looked like 2 flies were moving at the same time resulting in several shouts from back stage for caution and then a minute's pause with nothing happening on stage while they sorted things out. It seems like everyone made it through without injury. Just as we like it!

As I finish writing this it is now 2-2 in the 5th set of the Wimbledon final. I would possibly consider selling my soul at this point for a Rafael Nadal victory. But now it's raining there (again!! all day with this!) so it might not eve END today. Ugh. hold on Rafa!

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