Ginger Hibiscus | News from Ginger Hibiscus - Review of Damn Yankees at The Landor Theatre
News from Ginger Hibiscus - Review of Damn Yankees at The Landor Theatre
News from Ginger Hibiscus - Damn Yankees at The Landor Theatre
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08 Oct REVIEW: Damn Yankees at The Landor Theatre

Long-suffering sports fans- and long-suffering sports widows/widowers – everywhere will empathise entirely with middle-aged estate agent Joe Boyd and his wife. For “Six Months Out of Every Year,” she loses him to his beloved Washington Senators baseball team, an armchair spectator glued to the screen for hours before – and after – she’s gone to bed, whingeing about abysmal performances and cursing the, “damn Yankees.” So when Mr Applegate appears, claiming he can turn Joe into Joe Hardy, the long ball hitter the Senators so desperately need, it’s a tempting offer. But doing a deal with the Devil always has its drawbacks; he has to leave his old life, including his wife, Meg, behind.

Jonathan D Ellis in Damn Yankees (c) Roy TanIt’s fair to say that the plot itself requires a bit of a leap of faith (think 17 Again, 18 Again, 13 Going On 30), but that leap of faith doesn’t stretch as far as permitting the show to diverge from the standard template storyline. So ultimately it’s an entirely predictable and quite unremarkable course of events that necessitate the magic to come from the dramatisation.

Fortunately, there’s magic in abundance where Jonathan D Ellis is concerned. As Mr Applegate, or rather, the Devil, he’s gloriously camp, delivering flawless vocals and being every bit as fabulous as you might hope – and some. Strutting about in a shiny grey suit accented with red, subtle costume design (Nina Morley) balances his otherwise ridiculous character, Mephistophelean and ludicrously outlandish, which leaves the audience positively crying with laughter. Think “Rylan does Satan” and you might land somewhere close.

On Applegate’s staff is Lola the “homewrecker,” a sultry and overtly sexy being whose soul is possessed by the Devil, sent in to unsettle (read: seduce) Joe. Poppy Tierney is indisputably beautiful, and she’s incredibly alluring as the femme fatale, making a Jessica Rabbit-like entrance in a figure-hugging backless dress, but the characterisation of Lola seems lost somewhere between seriously seductive and a little bit silly. That said, it’s in her dance numbers (choreographed by Robbie O’Reilly) that we really get some of that Applegate-esque magic.

The ensemble dance numbers continue creating moments of perfectly-drilled magic; the large cast seem to exude enough energy to power New York, and in such an intimate venue, that’s outrageously infectious. Similarly, the ensemble harmonies are a treat, as epitomised when the Washington Senators team perform in just their (little) towels. Despite some thoroughly distracting physiques, it’s the lovely way their vocal tones complement each other that’s most memorable (okay, almost most memorable), and it really reinforces the notion of them being a team.

As part of this ensemble, Alex Lodge (Joe) is equally strong, but despite being both attractive and talented, he feels like a strange choice of casting. Perfect for the role of the wanderer in See Rock City, in Damn Yankees he feels incongruous as the baseball heartthrob, struggling with a couple of the higher notes, and far more suited to the tender moments with Meg (Nova Skipp) where their mutual longing is palpable.

Aside from the plot progression and some questions over casting, the other key problem with the production is the subject matter, and it’s relevance to the audience. I can only speak for myself here, but having never seen a baseball match, been tempted to, or taken any time to understand it as a sport, I suspect that any clever script work is lost on me, and the relevance of the conversations about the performance of individuals or the Senators team is definitely lost on me. The result being that I felt as apathetic about the match as I did about the game of pool being played in the Landor Pub downstairs.

In all, Damn Yankees is good fun; it’s light, entertaining and oozes sex appeal.

(from left) Douglas Fanning, Barnaby Hughes, Joel Burman, Kiel Payton, Alex Lodge (in front)DAMN YANKEES at Landor Theatre pls credit Roy Tan

Dates: 1 October – 8 November 2014
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Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
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