By Rod Stafford Hagwood
5:41 PM EST, February 1, 2013
If only “Damn Yankees” at Coral Springs’ Stage Door Theatre were as great as it sounds, because the singers are batting it out of the park.
In this production of the 1955 musical (revived successfully on Broadway in 1994), the hit songs — “Heart,” “Whatever Lola Wants,” “Goodbye Old Girl,” “A Man Doesn’t Know,” “Who’s Got the Pain” — are sung with vigor, rattling the rafters.
It’s almost enough to make up for flat sets, occasionally awkward acting and self-conscious dancing. That guileless hoofing is kind of cute when it’s the baseball jocks thumping around in the locker room. Not so much when it’s Lola trying to be seductive.
Centered on a man’s Faustian bargain with the devil to sell his soul in exchange for a chance to help his beloved baseball team, the Senators, win the pennant by defeating those insert-favorite-expletive-here Yankees, the show seems to be moving fast at first. But then, somewhere midway through the second act, the pace is derailed, and we start to really feel those two hours and 15 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.
The voices, matched well with a recorded instrumental track, are the saving grace. Standouts include Elizabeth Sackett and Mark. A. Harmon as Meg and Joe Boyd, Joe being the middle-aged uber-fan who makes the deal with Beelzebub. He is transformed into a 22-year-old jock named Joe Hardy, played with just the right amount of aw-shucks-ma’am personality by a stellar-voiced Regan Featherstone.
But as good as Featherstone is, and he’s really in fine fettle, the scene-stealer in this production is firmly Matthew William Chizever as the satanic sports agent Mr. Applegate. With the kind of comedic timing, fast-talking-con-man charm reminiscent of Robert Preston in full bloom, Chizever brings dash and vaudeville panache to his hilarious solo, “Those Were the Good Old Days.”
Whenever Chizever is onstage, “Damn Yankees” fulfills its promise acting-wise, as well as vocally. When he’s not, well, just appreciate that glorious Richard Adler/Jerry Ross score being sung by a cast bringing it all home.
“Damn Yankees” will play through Feb. 10 at the Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Road, in Coral Springs. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 7 p.m. Sundays, with 2 p.m. matinees Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets cost $38. Call 954-344-7765 or go to StageDoorTheatre.com.
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