'Damn Yankees' on deck at Peoria Players

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damn yankees

The thought of somebody selling their soul so that their favorite baseball team wins the pennant instead of the Yankees isn’t so far-fetched, to some people. Besides, it makes for good musical comedy, the kind Peoria Players will bring to the stage in its final production of the 2014-15 season.

“Damn Yankees” opens a seven-show run at 7:30 p.m. Friday. It continues through May 10 at the theatre at University and Lake streets.

Director Jimmy Ulrich said the timing of “Damn Yankees” was intentional. “We wanted to put it in the spring, during baseball season, so we could get the interest of baseball fans. It is a very funny musical with baseball as the theme,” Ulrich said.

It was his first choice when offered the chance to direct this season, he said. He was in the show in high school and enjoyed it. “It was the first show that really sparked my interest in directing when I got older. I’ve always known that when I got the chance I would direct this show. So the timing was good because this isn’t a show that gets done very often in community theatre, even though it’s one of the classics,” he said.

“Damn Yankees” is about the rivalry between the Washington Senators and the New York Yankees and it focuses on one particular Senators fan, Joe Boyd. So desperate is middle-aged Boyd for his team to top the hated Yankees he sells his soul to the devil to become the Senators’ star player, Joe Hardy.

What follows is the pennant race, the devil – called Mr. Applegate – and his shenanigans to keep Joe in line, and the women behind the men. Oh, and then there are the members of the Senators’ team and their manager and their fans. All told, the show has a cast of 80.

Songs in “Damn Yankees” include “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets,” “Heart,” “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo.,” “Goodbye Old Girl” and “Those Were the Good Old Days.”

The Senators are involved in several songs in the show, including dance numbers. Ulrich said that was one concern going into auditions. “I had some fear I wouldn’t get enough guys who could sing and dance to play the baseball players. But right now is a good time for this kind of show, one with a large male ensemble, which is rare, because we have quite a few guys in this area now who are in the right age group. So, I got lucky. And they are very talented,” he said.

Ulrich said more than 100 auditioned and his leads are the types of performed he hoped fpr.

Bryan Blanks, a veteran of many Peoria-area musicals, portrays Applegate. Ulrich said typically Applegate is portrayed by an older actor than Blanks. “But he is impressive in the role, acting and singing,” he said.

Joe Hardy is portrayed Deric Tucker Kimler, another local theatre veteran and Lola is performed by Ingrid Beyhl, coming off a hiatus of several years. The Boyds, Joe and Meg, are portrayed by Bill Barr and Wendy Blickenstaff, while Jillian Risinger as Gloria Thorpe and Doug Orear as Coach Van Buren perform  the show’s biggest numbers.

“They both really knock it out of the park,” Ulrich said.

Jill Barr handled costumes for the show and the baseball uniforms were borrowed from Dunlap High School, which produced “Damn Yankees” last year and had the uniforms made.

Maggie Sloter directed the nine-piece orchestra. Lindsey Byers was the vocal coach.

“The show just has so much energy and is a lot of fun for everybody,” Ulrich said.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and again on May 7, 8 and 9. Matinees are 2 p.m. on May 3 and May 10.

Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for those 18 and under. They can be purchased online at www.peoriaplayers.org or by calling 688-4473.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).