Paper Mill Playhouse’s Damn Yankees is a quality revival of this energetic and charming old-fashioned musical. Yankeesfollows passionate baseball fan Joe Boyd (Joseph Kolinski), who sells his soul to a devil named Applegate (Howard McGillan) in order to help his home team, the Washington Senators, beat out the Yankees for the pennant.
Middle-aged Joe Boyd is transformed into young Joe Hardy (the appropriately athletic newcomer Christopher Charles Wood), who can knock the ball out of the park every time. When Joe starts missing his old life (and wife), Applegate brings in sexy Lola (Chryssie Whitehead), who tries to seduce Joe, singing the show’s biggest hit “Whatever Lola Wants”.
The original 1955 production was only the second time Bob Fosse had choreographed for the Broadway stage. Choreographer Denis Jones provides the merest whiff of Fosse’s style, which turns out to be a very smart move; the mambo-inflected “Who’s Got the Pain?”, for example, makes much more sense in this lightweight show without that oddly compelling Fosse menace. Whitehead delivers Jones’s choreography with playful aplomb both in “Pain” and above all in “Whatever Lola Wants”. Susan Mosher is a scream in the small but delightful comic role of Senators fan Sister. And who doesn’t love hunky chorus boys dressed as baseball players?
Christopher Charles Wood, however, is the real reason to see this production; he’s handsome, well-built, sexy and has acting and singing ability that more than matches his looks. Director Mark S. Hoebee has clearly done the work with Wood to make sure that his Hardy and Kolinski’s Boyd have the same personality. All in all, this Damn Yankees is solidly entertaining, with plenty of heart.
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