By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
One of the odd quirks in the story is that pre-Applegate, Joe ignores Meg to watch baseball six months a year. But after he sells his soul to be a star player who's 20 years younger (meaning Meg doesn't recognize him when he moves back in as a boarder), Joe thinks of nothing but how much he misses his "old girl."
Joe forgets Meg long enough, however, to dally briefly with a new girl, Lola, a curvy embodiment of all deadly sins. She may get what she wants when she wants it in the show, but this production's Lola, Morgana Shaw, isn't such a winning wanton. Affecting a squeaky voice—sort of Faith Prince on helium—Shaw is hard to understand either talking or singing. Her acting is fine, but her dancing wants improvement. She might have been improvising her moves on "Whatever Lola Wants," or at least it looked that way. And Lola's slithery mambo, "Who's Got the Pain," was performed on opening night by Shaw's understudy, Jennifer Laws, which made it meaningless within the context of the scene. (Shaw has been busy prepping for the transfer of her one-woman show about Bette Davis to Broadway and missed rehearsals of Yankees; she's also been filming I Love You Phillip Morris, playing Jim Carrey's mom in flashbacks.)
As a community theater, Garland Summer Musicals casts amateurs in the ensemble against professionals in the leads. The guys playing the Senators bat about .500 with their singing and dancing in Yankees. Keith Warren has a goofy L'il Abner quality as Rocky, the team star before Joe's arrival knocks him to the bottom of the order. He and the other Senators kick up their knees in some lively dance sequences, choreographed by Joseph Jones with a few minor nods to Bob Fosse's steps for the original Broadway and film versions. The men's voices blend nicely on the miles and miles and miles of "Heart." And the pit band, led by Jeff Crouse, is terrific.
Other details betray the amateur side of GSM. Joke after joke goes splat because of uneven timing, and there's an abundance of nervous emoting and wooden delivery in the smaller roles. Michael Robinson and Suzi Shankle's costumes offer a confusing blend of 1950s glamour for Lola with contemporary and mostly unflattering clothing on other characters. The two gushing Joe Hardy fans, played by Delynda Moravec and Linda Frank, wear wigs shaped like coneheads. And why do the Senators' uniforms make them look so much like the blue-and-white pin-striped Yankees they despise?
Still, if you don't mind some fraying at the edges, Damn Yankees is a good old-fashioned show that delivers a corny message about love outlasting glory. Garland Summer Musicals has been at it for 26 summers, serving as a minor league training ground for plenty of actors who've gone into major productions elsewhere. Beyond the leads, the Garland casts are populated with un- or barely paid regulars who return year after year to do shows just for the love of it. There's some glory in that.