It goes without saying that the most devoted sports fans would do just about anything to see their beloved teams succeed.
But in the Tony Award-winning musical “Damn Yankees,” Joe Boyd takes that notion to its furthest extreme, selling his soul to the devil so that the struggling Washington Senators will finally have a shot at winning the World Series.
“Damn Yankees,” which kicks off Lake City Playhouse’s 53rd season tonight, premiered on Broadway in 1955 and was an instant success, eventually making its way to the big screen with a 1958 film version in which most of the original stage cast reprised their roles.
LCP artistic director George Green, who’s also directing this production of “Damn Yankees,” said he’s sticking closely to the show’s original book, which is in the hallowed tradition of big, flashy old-fashioned musicals. “It has wonderful music in it, a very upbeat score, and our orchestra is fantastic,” Green said.
The story of “Damn Yankees,” a comedic take on the legend of Faust, is well-known by now. After Boyd signs away his soul to the devilish Mr. Applegate, he’s transformed into slugger extraordinaire Joe Hardy, or, as he’s dubbed by the press, “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo.” He joins the Senators and singlehandedly brings them out of their slump, but Applegate, naturally, has a few devious tricks up his sleeve, including the home-wrecking temptress Lola – whatever she wants, she gets.
“Damn Yankees” is one of the defining musicals of its era, a long-running stage hit that has seen everyone from Vincent Price to Jerry Lewis take on the Applegate role. “It’s got a little something for everybody in it,” Green said. “It’s a really energetic show, but it has moments for us to take a breath, too, to find some empathy with the characters.”
It may be an old chestnut, but it’s got miles and miles and miles of heart.