AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music and lyrics by Richard Adler & Jerry Ross
Book by George Abbott & Douglass Wallop
Directed by Tom Gough
Presented by Foothill Music Theatre & Foothill Theatre Arts
Smithwick Theatre
Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills, CA / (650) 949-7360

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Sports fans can be a fanatical lot. Some will go to almost any lengths to help their favorite team.

That's what happens in "Damn Yankees," presented by Foothill Music Theatre and Foothill Theatre Arts. Frustrated that his beloved Washington Senators baseball team always loses the pennant to the hated New York Yankees, an avid fan says he'd sell his soul to see the Senators come out on top.

The devil incarnate takes him up on the offer. He'll transform the middle-aged, out-of-shape fan into a young slugger who'll lead the Senators to victory. The fan agrees, disappearing from his present life and reappearing as a young man with a different name.

Thus "Damn Yankees" illustrates a well known caution: Be careful what you wish for.

That's what the hero, Joe Boyd (Matt Tipton), learns when he becomes the young Joe Hardy (Daniel Mitchell). Joe leaves behind his wife, Meg Boyd (Mary Melnick), and finds that he misses her more than he ever would have imagined.

The Tony-winning "Damn Yankees" was a smash hit when it opened on Broadway in 1955, and most of its subsequent productions have followed suit. The FMT production is not one of them.

As directed by Tom Gough of the Foothill faculty, it lacks some of the focus and cohesion that have characterized Foothill productions directed by former artistic director Jay Manley, who founded FMT but who recently retired to freelance.

Still, with its large cast of students and community members, the show has some strong qualities. They include performances by several principals, such as Boyd as older Joe, Mitchell as younger Joe and Melnick as Meg. Mitchell acts and sings well, especially in "Goodbye Old Girl," sweetly sung first by older Joe and then by younger Joe as the transformation takes place.

Melnick is believable as Meg expresses her frustration in "Six Months Out of Every Year," when her husband and so many others pay more attention to baseball than their wives. She also is convincing in Meg's steadfast belief that Joe will eventually return.

Also noteworthy is Jeff Clarke as Applegate, the smooth-talking devil who'll do anything he can to keep younger Joe from returning to his original life. Clarke has fun with "Those Were the Good Old Days," in which Applegate recalls some of his nefarious deeds through the ages.

Richard Lewis makes a suitably crusty Benny Van Buren, manager of the Senators. His big moment comes in "(You Gotta Have) Heart." Caitlin Lawrence-Papp does well as Gloria Thorpe, a nosy reporter.

Jen Wheatonfox sings well as Lola, the vamp sent by Applegate to make younger Joe forget Meg.

Choreography by Katie O'Bryon lacks precision and imagination. Musical director Catherine Snider's orchestra sounds ragged at times.

Margaret Toomey's scenic design also lacks imagination (or a more generous budget). The costumes are by Janis Bergmann, the lighting by Edward Hunter and the sound (sometimes problematic) by Ken Kilen.

Attending a show at Foothill always is pleasant because the campus is so attractive. Seeing "Damn Yankees" also was pleasant because of the show itself, but it was a bit of a letdown after so many outstanding FMT productions in the past.

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