Beginning Thursday, William and Mary Theatre will hit the year off with “Damn Yankees,” a musical comedy.
The book-turned-musical, originally written by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop as a modern-day tale, first opened on Broadway in 1955 and ran for 1,019 performances — a rare feat in the history of musicals about baseball. The play is about Joe Boyd, an elderly baseball fan who is given the opportunity to go back in time, be 22 years old again, and play for the Washington Senators as Joe Hardy. Like so many other things that sound too good to be true, there’s a catch: In return for this opportunity, the devil is trying to trick him into giving up his soul.
Brian Paljug ’09, who portrays Joe Hardy, is confident in the musical’s comedic value. “It’s entertaining because it mostly figures around the devil being a very comic figure,” Paljug said. “He is portrayed as a businessman whose business is essentially getting souls for hell. It’s very sinister. At the same time, there is a lot of humor in this fact.”
The play’s actors enjoy the plot because of its fantastical nature and supernatural themes.
“It is as ridiculous as it sounds,” said Hatty Preston ’09, who plays Lola, the devil’s seductress. “It’s a musical about baseball and the devil’s involvement. It is definitely entertaining.”
Though the title may give the impression of a baseball-themed play, “Damn Yankees” reaches beyond just the sport. In between highly stylized dance sequences and musical numbers, the show addresses the audience with a classic theme: “It’s more important to remain and stick with what you love than wager that away for a bid for fame, glory and success,” Paljug said.
The play includes 19 musical numbers. Each song contributes to the production as it sets the atmosphere of the scene. “The style of the music reminds audiences that this is in the 1950s,” Musical Director Gary Green, a theater professor, said. “This, in turn, helps he choreographer set the tone for the dance numbers, and along with the costumes, it lets everyone remember what era the characters are living in.”
When asked about the reason for selecting this particular production, Director Laurie Wolf, a professor in the theater department, cited a desire to branch out and reach a wider audience than just the student body. “We were looking for something that was potentially very popular, and this is one that the broader community of Williamsburg would recognize.”
According to Wolf, this musical finds relevance in context to what is happening in our everyday lives. “The timing is good because it’s coming at the playoffs of the baseball season. An added bonus is the number of political references made in the text of the play, which of course we’re making the most of with the election coming up,” she said. “It’s a different sort of musical than we’ve put on in the past. It’s very lively. Like I said, it hits baseball, it hits politics, and it has good versus evil, but evil takes on a very comic sort of role. It’s a good time. The actors have a good time with it, and I think that makes all the difference.”
“Damn Yankees” will run Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Oct. 16 to 18 and Oct. 19 at 2 p.m. in Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $10 for students. For more information, call x2674.