Lake City Playhouse kicks off its 53rd season with the classic American musical comedy “Damn Yankees.” The production doesn’t hit a home run, but it does get some base hits.
“Damn Yankees,” with book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop and music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, centers on Joe Boyd (Dennis Craig), an old baseball fan who makes a deal with the devil to become a young baseball phenomenon, Joe Hardy (Brendan Brady). Directed by George Green, the production features much humor and a tender side.
Craig’s rendition of “Goodbye Old Girl” is particularly sweet, and he and Teri Grubbs, who plays Meg, Joe’s wife, have a nice rapport.
Brady has great command of his smooth voice and gives a solid performance as a man who is stuck between a dream and regret.
Aubree Peterson is a doll as the devil’s helper, Lola. While she has a powerful voice, she’s missing the sultriness Lola needs to tempt Joe.
The emotional connections between young Joe and his love interests at key moments need to be strengthened, as in “Near to You” and “Two Lost Souls.”
Lance E. Babbitt appears to relish his role of the devil, Mr. Applegate, who comically plots and rants in smart suits. “Those Were the Good Old Days” is well done.
Briane Green plays the nosy reporter Gloria with spirit, and she leads “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, MO,” skillfully. Gloria and Applegate engage in fun repartee throughout the show.
The chorus of baseball players are well matched, and their diverse voices blend nicely. They perform numbers like “Heart” and “The Game” with enthusiasm. David Kappus’ portrayal of baseball coach Van Buren, however, is too understated.
Choreography by Brook Basset is fresh and fun and well executed by the cast. The orchestra is led by the theater’s new resident music director, Zack Baker.
Overall, the show lacks the polish of some of Lake City Playhouse’s productions last season, with some noticeably dropped lines on opening night, but as with any team, time strengthens bonds.