Middle-aged baseball fanatic Joe Boyd would do anything to help his favorite team, the Washington Senators, beat the New York Yankees in Cedar Street Theater’s production of “Damn Yankees,” for one weekend only, at the Lancaster Performing Arts Center.
So Boyd trades his soul to the devil, known here as Mr. Applegate, for a chance to lead his favorite team to victory in the pennant race against the Yankees.
Mr. Applegate transforms Boyd into Joe Hardy, a young baseball sensation who can hit. But Joe leaves his wife Meg behind.
Director Jill McGrady agreed to helm the musical comedy as a favor to technical director Jim Tarlton.
“This is going to be his last show,” she said. “He’s retiring and he asked me to direct it as his final show. So that’s what got me interested.”
McGrady is also a fan of the musical. The original Broadway musical debuted in 1955 and ran for 1,019 performances. George Abbott and Douglass Wallop wrote the book, with music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. It is based on Wallop’s novel “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant.”
“And I really do like the show, it’s about good and evil, and what wins, whether it’s good or evil,” McGrady said. “We have a really good group of people.”
Actress Christine Maag plays reporter Gloria Thorpe.
“I knew it was a very dance-heavy show,” she said.
Maag started dancing when she was a child. She also did color guard and competitive figure skating before joining the military.
“Then I found my way back to ballet training up in Tehachapi when I came to this area,” she said.
Maag was familiar with the story and enjoyed the musical.
Kevin Clark plays Joe Hardy, the “young” Joe. Clark, and his girlfriend Katelyn Michelle, who plays Lola, auditioned for the show.
“I love the story of just an individual wanting to relive their dream after not having a chance and just taking it a little further than they expected and realizing what’s most important in life,” Clark said.
The character of Lola is the devil’s seductive assistant.
“I love my role of Lola,” Michelle said.
She said when her grandmother found out about the auditions, she begged her to audition.
“She’s said for years, that I would do Gwen Verdon (the original Lola) justice and things like that,” Michelle said. “The moment I got the role, she’s the first person I called. She’s coming from Nevada just to come watch.”
Michelle said the role has been challenging as far as her dance.
“I’ve been able to try to hone in my dancing skills a little bit more,” she said. “Luckily, all of the belts are already in my sweet spot for singing.”
Community theater veteran Bill Armstrong plays Mr. Applegate. This is his third time doing the show, in a different role each time.
“This role is the one I’ve always wanted to do,” Armstrong said. “This is over the top. You get to do some strange things.”
He played Van Buren, the Washington Senators’ manager, in 2000 in a Cedar Street Production at the LPAC. He played Joe Boyd about six or seven years ago in a production in Santa Clarita.
“I’ve always liked the show,” Armstrong said. “In fact, this is the show that got me into wanting to do theater.”
The 2000 production of “Damn Yankees” was his first show.
He said he wanted to see the show. His wife convinced him to try out, instead.
“The way they have it choreographed is very unusual … It’s going to be way different than I’ve ever seen,” Armstrong said.
“Damn Yankees” will be on stage at 8 p.m., May 24-26, at the Lancaster Performing Arts Center, 750 West Lancaster Blvd.
Tickets cost $25. For details visit www.lpac.org, or call 661-723-5950.