Cabrillo Music Theatre hits one out of the park, bringing Tony award-winning Damn Yankees to the Kavli Theatre at the Thousand Oaks Civic Auditorium. Written by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop, Damn Yankees combines musical theatre, baseball, comedy, dance and a touch of magic to tell a classic tale of fanaticism, temptation, fame, love and regret. Originally debuting on Broadway in 1955, it won 11 Tony awards, including Best Musical, and was adapted for the motion picture screen in 1958.
An aging sports fan, Joe Boyd (John Atkins), leaves his wife (Sarah Tattersall) and home behind after making a pact with the devil (John Sloman). With the devil’s help, Joe becomes the baseball superstar Shoeless Joe Hardy (Travis Leland), leading his beloved Washington Senators toward the American League pennant.
Joe cleverly negotiates an escape clause into the devil’s contract, beginning a sparring match of wit, temptation and trickery. Discovering Joe longing to return to his wife, the devil calls on sultry seductress Lola Banana (Renee Marino), who applies her formidable talents to lure Joe astray. Sports fans will relate to the many baseball references, but you don’t need to enjoy the national pastime to appreciate this timeless story and lighthearted musical romp.
The show is very well-cast. Like the characters they portray, the cast comes together as a strong team, combining, as they would say, “90 percent skill and another half” teamwork, spirit, talent and passion. Choreographer John Todd creates a fun, fresh and seamlessly flowing blend of athletics, mime, baseball, gymnastics and modern dance. Lola, Gloria (Katheryne Penny) and Buster (Joshua Rivera) bring an amazing level of energy and athleticism to the choreography, but in a show that almost never rests, the entire cast delivers an impressive and perfectly coordinated game. It is especially noteworthy how Todd and director Kirsten Chandler keep every face in the cast so appropriately and delightfully expressive throughout even the most strenuous and demanding moments.
Musical director Cassie Nickols and the Cabrillo Music Theatre Orchestra deliver a touching and beautiful rendition of Richard Adler and Jerry Ross’ original score. With memorable songs such as “You Gotta Have Heart,” “Whatever Lola Wants” and “A Little Brains, A Little Talent,” Damn Yankees spawned more popular hits than almost any other Broadway musical. The orchestra and cast consistently come together in perfect harmony, throughout a passionate and emotional soundtrack.
No review of this production would be complete without mentioning five young performers who really delight and capture the hearts of the audience. Addie Chandler, Calista Loter, Micah Meyers, Drew Rosen and Macello Silva join Cabrillo’s cast as one of Shoeless Joe’s youngest fan clubs. They sing two songs and perform several parts throughout the show, holding their own triumphantly amongst this very talented cast.
Damn Yankees is two hours of fun, spirit and comedy. It is a show that will truly entertain and delight the entire family with “miles and miles of heart.”
Damn Yankees through Oct. 25 at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. 449-2100 or www.cabrillomusictheatre.com.