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The New York stage has once again honored the provinces with an offering from the Great White Way. Damn Yankees is the stuff that formulas are made of, with all the trite and true gimmicks, tall-girl routines, and repartee that entices visiting executives to drop half a hundred a ticket.
The excuse for this explosion of song and dance is a book called The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant, by Douglas Wallop; it involves an ardent fan of the Great American Game who sold his soul to the devil for a chance to win the pennant for his team. The plot may get forgotten at times, but Damn Yankees offers something for everybody, a pleasant mixture of sex and good old homey sentiment, with the accent of course on the former.
Although the road company lacks some of the sparkle of the original cast, which for the most part is still playing in New York, they put the show over with considerable verve and finesse. Ralph Lowe plays the lead in suitable all-American-boy style. As Applegate, alias Mephistopheles, Ray Walston is properly sardonic and fast-paced. Devra Korwin, who handles the part of the standard siren played by Gwen Verdon on Broadway, is the major sex interest of the show. As a dancer, she is expert, but as a singer she is better to look at than to listen to.
Perhaps the most impressive facet of the show, aside from its general high spirits, is the superlative choreography of Bob Fosse. Particularly impressive are the routines "Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo." and "Who's Got the Pain?" The lyrics and music are gay and spritely, never flat and sometimes very winning. "You Gotta Have Heart" and "Two Lost Souls" are the most appealing products of Messrs. Adler and Ross's song-smithing. The singing is generally good and Gary Cockell, Howard Krieger, and Roger Franklin's raucous rendition of "You Gotta Have Heart" brings down the house.
The production is lush and large-scale with most attractive and convincing sets, well-handled lights, and especially colorful costumes. Damn Yankees is a real pagent, and its designers deserve a great measure of credit for the smooth staging of this rather complicated and sprawling piece.
But in spite of some weakness in organization, Damn Yankees is by far the best musical that Boston has seen in a long time. And if the prices seem a little steep, the show makes enough noise so that peanut heaven at the Shubert isn't half bad.
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