Damn Yankees

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This article is about the Broadway musical. For other uses, see Damn Yankees (disambiguation).
Damn Yankees
Damn yankees 1955.jpg
1955 Original Cast Recording
Music Richard Adler
Lyrics Jerry Ross
Book George Abbott
Douglass Wallop
Basis The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglass Wallop
Productions 1955 Broadway
1957 West End
1958 Film
1967 U.S. Television
1994 Broadway revival
1997 West End revival
2008 Encores! Summer Stars
Awards Tony Award for Best Musical

Damn Yankees is a musical comedy with a book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop and music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. The story is a modern retelling of the Faust legend set during the 1950s in Washington, D.C., during a time when the New York Yankees dominated Major League Baseball. The musical is based on Wallop's novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant.

Damn Yankees ran for 1,019 performances in its original 1955 Broadway production. Adler and Ross's success with The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees seemed to point to a bright future for them, but Ross suddenly died of chronic bronchiectasis, at the age of twenty-nine, a few months after Damn Yankees opened.

Productions[edit]

The producers Harold Prince, Robert Griffith, and Frederick Brisson had decided that the lead actress for the part of "Lola" had to be a dancer. They offered the role to both the movie actress Mitzi Gaynor and ballet dancer Zizi Jeanmaire, each of whom turned down the role. Although Gwen Verdon had sung just one song in her previous show (Can-Can), the producers were willing to take a chance on her. She initially refused, preferring to assist another choreographer, but finally agreed. Choreographer Bob Fosse insisted on meeting her before working with her, and after meeting and working for a brief time, they each agreed to the arrangement.[1]

Damn Yankees opened on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre on May 5, 1955, transferred to the Adelphi Theatre on May 17, 1957, and ran for a total of 1,019 performances. Directed by George Abbott, scenery and costumes William and Jean Eckart, dances & musical numbers staged by Bob Fosse, musical director Hal Hastings, orchestrations by Don Walker, and dance music arrangements by Roger Adams.

The production starred Ray Walston (Mr. Applegate), Gwen Verdon (Lola), Shannon Bolin (Meg), Robert Shafer (Joe Boyd), Elizabeth Howell (Doris), Stephen Douglass (Joe Hardy), Al Lanti (Henry), Eddie Phillips (Sohovik), Nathaniel Frey (Smokey), Albert Linville (Vernon, Postmaster), Russ Brown (Van Buren), Jimmy Komack (Rocky), Rae Allen (Gloria), Cherry Davis (Teenager), Del Horstmann (Lynch, Commissioner), Richard Bishop (Welch), Janie Janvier (Miss Weston), and Jean Stapleton (Sister).

A West End production played at the London Coliseum beginning on March 28, 1957, where the musical played for 258 performances.[2] The production starred Olympic skater Belita (née Gladys Lyne Jepson-Turner) as Lola, but the Fosse choreography was alien to her style, and she was soon replaced by Elizabeth Seal.[3] The production also starred Bill Kerr as Mr. Applegate, and Ivor Emmanuel as Joe Hardy.

In the mid-1970s, Vincent Price starred as Applegate in summer stock productions of the show. In the late 1970s and early 1980s film actor Van Johnson appeared as Mr. Applegate in productions throughout the U.S.A. In July, 1981, a production of Damn Yankees was performed at the Jones Beach Theatre in Wantaugh, NY. This performance was notable due to former New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath being cast in the role of Joe Boyd.[4]

A Broadway revival opened at the Marquis Theatre on March 3, 1994 and ran for 718 performances and 18 previews. Featured were Bebe Neuwirth as Lola and Victor Garber as Mr. Applegate. Garber was succeeded by Jerry Lewis, making his Broadway debut, on March 12, 1995,[5] who then starred in a national tour and also played the role in a London production. Jack O'Brien directed, with choreography by Rob Marshall, assisted by his sister, Kathleen Marshall. O'Brien is also credited with revisions to the book.[6]

The 1994 revival production opened in the West End at the Adelphi Theatre on June 4, 1997 (previews started May 29) and closed on August 9, 1997. Jerry Lewis reprised his role as Mr. Applegate.[7]

A revival was produced by the City Center Encores! Summer Stars series from July 5 to July 27, 2008. It starred Jane Krakowski as Lola, Sean Hayes as Applegate, Randy Graff as Meg, Megan Lawrence as Gloria Thorpe (replacing an injured Ana Gasteyer during rehearsal), PJ Benjamin as Joe Boyd, and Cheyenne Jackson as Joe Hardy. John Rando directed and the original Fosse choreography was reproduced by Mary MacLeod. Given the substantial changes in the 1994 revival, this is considered by some the first authentic revival of the original production.[8]

Plot[edit]

Note: This is the plot of the 1994 Broadway revival of the play; there are differences from the 1955 version. For the film version, see Damn Yankees (film).

Middle-aged real estate agent Joe Boyd is a long-suffering fan of the pathetic Washington Senators baseball team. His wife Meg laments this ("Six Months Out Of Every Year"). After Meg has gone to bed, Joe sits up late, grumbling that if the Senators just had a "long ball hitter" they could beat the "damn Yankees." "I'd sell my soul for a long ball hitter," he laments. Suddenly, "Mr. Applegate" appears. He looks like a slick salesman, but he is really the Devil, and he offers Joe exactly that deal: if he gives up his soul, Joe will become "Joe Hardy," the young slugger the Senators need. Joe accepts, even though he must leave his wife Meg ("Goodbye Old Girl"). However, Joe's business sense makes him insist on an escape clause. The Senators' last game is on Sept. 25, and if he plays in that final game, he is "in for the duration." If not, he has until 9 o'clock the night before the final game to walk away from the deal and return to his normal life.

At the ball park, the hapless Senators vow to play their best despite their failings ("Heart"). Then Joe Hardy is suddenly discovered and joins the team. Gloria, a reporter, praises him ("Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo"). His hitting prowess enables the Senators to move up the standings.

Though Joe is increasingly successful, he truly misses his wife and begins boarding with her. Meg and the young man begin to bond, especially over her "lost" husband ("A Man Doesn't Know"). Fearful of losing his deal, Mr. Applegate calls Lola, "the best homewrecker on [his] staff," to seduce Joe and ensure his damnation. Lola promises to deliver ("A Little Brains, A Little Talent"), and Applegate introduces her as a sultry South American dancer named "Señorita Lolita Banana." Lola sings a seductive song ("Whatever Lola Wants Lola Gets"), but Joe's devotion to his wife proves too strong, even for her. Applegate punishes her by sending her to hell, where she performs with other damned souls ("Who's Got the Pain").

Applegate decides to switch tactics to ensure Joe's failure. He releases false information about Joe Hardy's true identity being "Shifty McCoy," an escaped criminal and con artist. When Gloria discovers this information, she presses charges, and Joe is forced into court.

The Senators prepare for the final game against the Yankees for the pennant and worry about Joe, but they vow to think of nothing but winning ("The Game"). Meanwhile, angry fans are seeking Joe out, so he decides to leave the Boyd home. As he does, he tells Meg indirectly that he is her old husband ("Near to You"). Meanwhile, Applegate is exhausted by the work he has put into collecting one soul and thinks about the "simpler" times in his long history ("Those Were the Good Old Days").

Joe's day in court is on Sept. 24, the last day of his deal. As Joe Hardy technically does not exist, he cannot produce any kind of identification. The owner of the Senators, coach and even Lola (disguised as "Señora McCoy") testify; unfortunately, their opinions are invalid. Gloria suggests that Applegate take the stand, but he is unable to take the oath due to its provision against lying. "Don't you have another version of that thing?" he asks. Joe realizes that Applegate is simply stalling to keep him from meeting his 9 o'clock deadline. Applegate claims that Joe "just needs time to think" and sends him to the lower levels of hell, where history's most famous lovers wait. Lola meets Joe there and realizes that he truly does love Meg. She helps him by sending him into the final game and delays Applegate by coercing him into a duet ("Two Lost Souls").

When Applegate finally arrives at the game, it is five minutes to nine, and Joe is at bat. As time runs out, Meg, her friends and even Lola begin cheering for Joe. Applegate uses his powers to give Joe two strikes. The clock strikes nine, and Applegate claims victory — but at the last second, Joe cries, "Let me go!" The deal is broken, and he is transformed back into his old self. Amazingly, he is still able to hit a home run and win the Senators the pennant.

Back at home, Joe rushes into Meg's arms. Applegate appears on the scene, claiming that Joe owes him his soul. Joe begs Meg to hold him and not let go, and she begins to sing ("A Man Doesn't Know Reprise"). Applegate promises to make Joe young again and even ensure a World Series victory. But his powers are useless against the pair's true love, which Lola points out. Applegate shouts that such a thing cannot exist — but he is wrong. He and Lola vanish back into hell, defeated, with Joe and Meg united again forever.

Musical numbers[edit]

Based on 1994 revival[9]

Characters[edit]

  • Joe Boyd — A middle-aged, overweight married man who is in love with baseball, especially the Senators [the "older" Joe Hardy]
  • Joe Hardy — The 22-year-old, home run hitting alter ego of Joe Boyd
  • Lola — The Devil's seductress assistant
  • Mr. Applegate — The Devil in disguise as a slick salesman
  • Meg Boyd — Joe's loyal, traditional wife
  • Van Buren — The hard working manager of the Washington Senators with great heart but no luck
  • Gloria Thorpe — A probing reporter
  • Rocky — A baseball player for the Washington Senators
  • Smokey — A "dim bulb" catcher for the Washington Senators
  • Doris — A friend of Meg
  • Sister — A friend of Meg
  • Mr. Welch - The owner of the Senators
  • Others: Bouley (also called Ibsen in some productions), Vernon, Henry, Linville, Sohovik, Lowe, Mickey, Del, and The Commissioner
  • Baseball players and batboys; Baseball fans' wives

(The original Broadway version also had a children's chorus who sang the reprise of "Heart")

Recordings, film and television[edit]

The 1955 Original Broadway Cast recording is on RCA Victor, recorded May 8, 1955. The LP was originally issued in mono but in 1965 RCA Victor offered an electronic stereo version. The current CD edition was released in 1988.[10] RCA Victor also released the film soundtrack in 1958. Although recorded in stereo, only the mono version was released. The 1989 CD edition marked the first release of the recording in stereo. The 1994 Broadway revival cast recording made by Mercury (and now on the Decca Broadway label) was released on May 17, 1994.

A film version, directed by George Abbott and Stanley Donen, was released in 1958. With the exception of Tab Hunter in the role of Joe Hardy (replacing Stephen Douglass), the Broadway principals reprised their stage roles. The film version is very similar to the stage version.

A made-for-TV movie version was broadcast on April 8, 1967 on NBC. Phil Silvers played Mr. Applegate. Also starring were Lee Remick as Lola and Ray Middleton as Joe Boyd.

It has been announced that a new contemporary film adaptation of the musical will star Jim Carrey as Applegate and Jake Gyllenhaal as Joe Hardy.[11]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1956 Tony Award Best Musical Won
Best Performance By a Leading Actor in a Musical Ray Walston Won
Stephen Douglass Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Gwen Verdon Won
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Russ Brown Won
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Rae Allen Nominated
Best Conductor and Musical Director Hal Hastings Won
Best Choreography Bob Fosse Won
Best Stage Technician Harry Green Won

1994 Broadway Revival[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1994 Tony Award Best Revival of a Musical Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Victor Garber Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Jarrod Emick Won
Best Choreography Rob Marshall Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Revival of a Musical Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Jarrod Emick Won
Outstanding Orchestrations Douglas Besterman Nominated
Theatre World Award Jarrod Emick Won
Jerry Lewis Won

1997 London revival[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1998 Laurence Olivier Award Best Musical Revival Nominated
Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical April Nixon Nominated
Best Theatre Choreographer Rob Marshall Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ All His Jazz: The Life & Death of Bob Fosse, Martin Gottfried, 1998, pp. 94-95, Da Capo Press, ISBN 0-306-80837-4
  2. ^ Information from the Musicals101 website
  3. ^ Obituary of Belita
  4. ^ http://www.csmonitor.com/1981/0709/070902.html
  5. ^ New York Times, Vincent Canby, March 13, 1995
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ Albemarle archive
  8. ^ Rooney, David."Review: Damn Yankees'",Variety, July 10, 2008
  9. ^ IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information
  10. ^ New York Times, John S. Wilson, June 26, 1955, pg. X10
  11. ^ Fleming, Michael.Carrey, Gyllenhaal do 'Yankees' variety.com, February 26, 2009

External links[edit]