The Phoenix rises with “Damn Yankees”

717
Campus Pride logo

On September 20, Phoenix Productions presented “Damn Yankees” to a full house at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank. Phoenix Productions is a non-profit community theater, where most of the talent happens to be volunteers. This in no way diminished the spunky, sassy production with live orchestra. Having produced over 100 productions since their beginnings in 1988, this company is no fly-by- night operation. 

Their 2013 season included “Anything Goes,” and “the Music Man” and now “Damn Yankees.” “White Christmas” will open November 15.

This is the popular musical based upon the Faustian bargain between the Devil (here called “Mr. Applegate”), and Joe Boyd, an aging fan of the Washington Senators who wishes with all of his heart – and soul – for a Senators pennant win over those New York Yankees. Many will know the musical from the 1958 movie starring Tab Hunter, Ray Walston, and Gwen Verdon.

The Phoenix production features Mark Schumacher as Joe Boyd, and Shelley Ziegler as his wife, Meg. Mr. Applegate is James Grausam, and the young Joe, now known as Joe Hardy, is played by Eric Harper. The real excitement for our readers of “Out in Jersey” will be Eric Harper. Tall, blond, and easy on the eyes, he is a splendid specimen of wholesome sportsmanship. Interestingly, he starred in the Phoenix production of “The Full Monty” a few years ago. Harper also appeared in leading roles in the Phoenix productions of “Miss Saigon,” “Aida,” “West Side Story,” and “Grease,” among others. Jaclyn Michelle is “Lola,” in the role made famous by Gwen Verdon. “Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets” is her well-known seduction number performed in the Washington Senator’s locker room, and Michelle gives it all the role requires. Not bad for a woman who lists a Master’s Degree in Education as one of her accomplishments. James Grausam has directed several productions for the company, but here makes his company acting debut as Mr. Applegate. One may disagree with his portrayal of the devil as arch and campy, which may be argued diminishes the sinister nature of his character, but the audience enjoyed his arc delivery, athletic capers and sharp costume. When Applegate sings about his love of war, destruction and death in his musical number, “The Good Ol’ Days,” it just seems prissy, not sinister or horrible.

The ball- playing Washington Senators, ensemble actors, character actors, and children’s ensemble all acquitted themselves admirably. The orchestra, led by Andrew J. Macirowski, had “miles and miles and miles of heart.”

The Count Basie Theatre began as the Carlton Theater in 1926, featuring vaudeville acts. It closed in 1970, but opened again, and in 1984 became a landmark renamed after Red Bank native, William “Count” Basie who had died that year. It is a not-for-profit corporation. The theater seats over 1,500 people. If you’ve never been here, why not give it a try? If you have visited here, you already know it is a wonderful venue. For more information visit www.countbasietheatre.org/ and www.phoenixredbank.com 

PHOTO CAPTION

[Photo text: Eric Harper of Bridgewater, Jackie Michelle of Shrewsbury, and James Grausam of Carteret appear as Joe Hardy, the hero, Lola, the temptress, and Applegate, the Devil, in the hit Broadway musical at the Count Basie Theatre.]

On September 20, Phoenix Productions presented “Damn Yankees” to a full house at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank. Phoenix Productions is a non-profit community theater, where most of the talent happens to be volunteers. This in no way diminished the spunky, sassy production with live orchestra. Having produced over 100 productions since their beginnings in 1988, this company is no fly-by- night operation.