San Diego Theater Review: DAMN YANKEES (San Diego Musical Theatre at Spreckels Theatre)

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by Milo Shapiro on June 4, 2017

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


While many of Jerry Ross and Richard Adler’s songs from the 1955 Broadway classic hold up rather well, Douglass Wallop and George Abbott’s book isn’t tremendously captivating by 2017 standards. Oh, it’s a likeable-enough musical, but only a stellar production can sell this aging staple. San Diego Musical Theatre’s production contains enough qualities to make this a pleasant evening, but Damn Yankees (based on Wallop’s novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant), falls well short of a home run. There aren’t any great errors in SDMT’s work; it’s just that overall, it’s not enough.

Middle-aged baseball fanatic Joe makes a deal with The Devil to become a young baseball superstar and take his beloved Washington Senators to the playoffs. Joe finagles an escape clause that might allow him to return to his normal married life afterward and keep his soul. Can Joe get the Senators to victory without blowing his loophole with Satan, especially while being tempted by the demon’s seductress Lola?

As the key song says, “You Gotta Have Heart,” and there’s plenty of that to go around for these thespians, but only a few actors nail their roles. Some have strong dancing but lack vocal strength; others sing strongly but lack comedic chops; some characters feel forced not natural. And when the acting is acceptable, it’s not moving for the most part.

Technically, the Spreckels Theatre stage his been filled beautifully by Sean Fanning’s sets (except for an odd stairway to represent Hell), but James Vásquez’s direction and Jill Gorrie’s choreography, either too static or too busy, lacked a consistent tone, and worst of all, humor (under Don LeMaster’s leadership, the opening night orchestra was also erratic). When everything came together, it was more than satisfying (the second act’s “Two Lost Souls” was the clear winner of the night), but the end result feels like good community theater. After SDMT’s last two productions, the highly-recommended First Date and 9 to 5, this one falls short.

photos by Ken Jacques

Damn Yankees
San Diego Musical Theatre
Spreckels Theatre, 121 Broadway
Thurs at 7:30; Fri and Sat at 8; Sun at 2
ends June 18, 2017
for tickets, call 858.560.5740 or visit SDMT

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