Damn Yankees is a musical comedy with a book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop and music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. The story is a modern retelling of the Faust legend set during the 1950s in Washington, D.C., during a time when the New York Yankees dominated Major League Baseball. The musical is based on Wallop's novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant.
Damn Yankees ran for 1,019 performances in its original 1955 Broadway production. Adler and Ross's success with The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees seemed to point to a bright future for them, but Ross suddenly died of chronic bronchiectasis, at the age of twenty-nine, a few months after Damn Yankees opened.
The producers Harold Prince, Robert Griffith, and Frederick Brisson had decided that the lead actress for the part of "Lola" had to be a dancer. They offered the role to both the movie actress Mitzi Gaynor and ballet dancer Zizi Jeanmaire, each of whom turned down the role. Although Gwen Verdon had sung just one song in her previous show (Can-Can), the producers were willing to take a chance on her. She initially refused, preferring to assist another choreographer, but finally agreed. Choreographer Bob Fosse insisted on meeting her before working with her, and after meeting and working for a brief time, they each agreed to the arrangement.
Damn Yankees opened on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre on May 5, 1955, transferred to the Adelphi Theatre on May 16, 1957, and ran for a total of 1,019 performances. Directed by George Abbott, the production starred Gwen Verdon in the role of seductive temptress Lola and Ray Walston in the part of Mr. Applegate (the Devil). The musical also featured Jean Stapleton, long before she achieved television fame as Edith Bunker.
The 1955 Original Cast Recording
A West End production played at the London Coliseum beginning on March 28, 1957, where the musical played for 258 performances. The production starred Olympic skater Belita (nee Gladys Lyne Jepson-Turner) as Lola, but the Fosse choreography was alien to her style, and she was soon replaced by Elizabeth Seal. The production also starred Bill Kerr as Mr. Applegate, and Ivor Emmanuel as Joe Hardy.
In the mid-1970s, Vincent Price starred as Applegate in summer stock productions of the show. In the late 1970s and early 1980s film actor Van Johnson appeared as Mr. Applegate in productions throughout the U.S.A. A Broadway revival opened at the Marquis Theatre on March 3, 1994 and ran for 718 performances and 18 previews. Featured were Bebe Neuwirth as Lola and Victor Garber as Mr. Applegate. Garber was succeeded by Jerry Lewis, making his Broadway debut, on March 12, 1995 , who then starred in a national tour and also played the role in a London production. Jack O'Brien directed, with choreography by Rob Marshall, assisted by his sister, Kathleen Marshall. There were substantial revisions to the book and score.
The 1994 revival production of Damn Yankees opened in the West End at the Adelphi Theatre on June 4, 1997 (previews started May 29) and closed on August 9, 1997. April Nixon played Lola, with Jerry Lewis reprising his role as Mr. Applegate.
A revival was produced by the City Center Encores! Summer Stars series from July 5 - July 27, 2008. It starred Jane Krakowski as Lola, Sean Hayes as Applegate, Randy Graff as Meg, Megan Lawrence as Gloria Thorpe (replacing an injured Ana Gasteyer during rehearsal), PJ Benjamin as Joe Boyd, and Cheyenne Jackson as Joe Hardy. John Rando directed and the original Fosse choreography was reproduced by Mary MacLeod. Given the substantial changes in the 1994 revival, this is considered by some the first authentic revival of the original production.
In mid-2009, a revival was staged at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, directed by Martin Connor with choreography by Bill Deamer. The size of orchestra, under the direction of Steven Edis, and facilities offered by the conservatoire's Silk Street Theatre in London's Barbican Centre meant that the piece's two overtures, often omitted from past productions due to the scale of its score, were played in full.
Note: This is the plot of the 1994 Broadway revival of the play; there are differences from the 1955 version. For the film version, see Damn Yankees.
Meg complains about her husband, real estate agent Joe Boyd, a long-suffering, middle-aged fan of the Washington Senators baseball team.("Six Months Out Of Every Year"). After Meg has gone to bed, Joe suddenly meets a slick salesman, Mr. Applegate, who is in reality the Devil. Joe is convinced to sell his soul to the Devil to become the young and strong slugger Joe Hardy, the "long ball hitter the Senators need that he'd sell his soul for," and leaves his wife Meg ("Goodbye Old Girl"). However, Joe's business sense makes him think of an escape clause: the Senators' last game is on September 25, and if he chooses to play in that final game, he is "in for the duration"-he has until 9 o'clock that night to walk away from the deal and return to his normal life. Meanwhile, the hapless Senators are vowing to play their best despite their failings ("Heart"). As the young Joe is suddenly discovered, Gloria, a reporter, praises him ("Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo"). His hitting prowess enables the Senators to move up the standings.
Though Joe is increasingly successful, he truly misses his wife and begins boarding with her. Meg and the young man begin to bond, especially over her "lost" husband ("A Man Doesn't Know"). Fearful of losing his deal, Mr. Applegate calls Lola, "the best homewrecker on [his] staff", to seduce Joe and thereby ensure his soul to damnation. Lola promises to deliver ("A Little Brains, A Little Talent"), and Applegate introduces her as a sultry South American dancer named "Señorita Lolita Banana". Lola sings a seductive song ("Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets"), but Joe's devotion to his wife proves too strong, even for her. Applegate punishes her by sending her to Limbo, where she performs with other damned souls ("Who's Got the Pain").
Applegate decides to switch tactics to ensure Joe's failure. He releases false information about Joe Hardy's true identity being "Shifty McCoy", an escaped criminal and con artist. When Gloria discovers this information, she presses charges, and Joe is forced into court.
The Senators prepare for the final game against the Yankees for the pennant, and worry about Joe-but vow to think of nothing else but winning ("The Game"). Meanwhile, angry fans are seeking Joe out, so he decides to leave the Boyd home. As he does, he tells Meg that he is her old husband in a guarded way ("Near to You"). Meanwhile, Applegate is exhausted by the work he has put into collecting one soul, and thinks about the "simpler" times in his long history ("Those Were the Good Old Days").
Joe's day in court is on the same day as the Senator's final game. As Joe Hardy technically does not exist, he cannot produce any kind of identification as to his identity. The owner of the Senators, coach, and even Lola (disguised as "Senora McCoy") testify against Joe; unfortunately, their opinions are invalid. Gloria suggests that Applegate take the stand, but he is unable to take the oath due to its provision against lying ("Don't you have another version of that thing?"). Joe realizes that Applegate is simply stalling to keep him from meeting his nine o'clock deadline. Applegate claims that Joe "just needs time to think", and sends him to the lower levels of Limbo, where history's most famous lovers wait. Lola meets Joe there, and realizes that he truly does love Meg. She helps him by sending him into the final game, and delays Applegate by coercing him into a duet ("Two Lost Souls").
When Applegate finally arrives at the game, it is five minutes to nine, and Joe is at bat. As time runs out, Meg, her friends, and even Lola begin cheering for Joe to succeed. Applegate uses his powers to give Joe two strikes. The clock strikes nine, and Applegate claims victory-but at the last second, Joe cries, "Let me go!" The deal is broken, and he is transformed back into his old self. Amazingly, he is still able to hit a home run and win the Senators the pennant.
Back at home, Joe rushes into Meg's arms. Applegate appears on the scene, claiming that Joe owes him his soul. Joe begs Meg to hold him and not let go, and she begins to sing ("A Man Doesn't Know Reprise"). Applegate promises to make Joe young again, and even ensure a World Series victory. But his powers are useless against the pair's true love, which Lola points out. Applegate shouts that such a thing cannot exist-but he is wrong. He and Lola vanish back into Hell, defeated, with Joe and Meg united again forever.
Based on 1994 revival
Six Months Out Of Every Year—Meg Boyd, Joe Boyd, Sister, Gloria Thorpe, Husbands and Wives
Goodbye Old Girl—Joe Boyd and Joe Hardy
Blooper Ballet—The Senators
Heart—Van Buren, Smokey, Rocky, Sohovik
Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo. -- Gloria Thorpe, Senators
Shoeless Joe (Reprise) -- Gloria Thorpe, Joe Hardy and Ensemble (1994 revival only, used elements of the song in the style of retro-1950s commercials)
A Little Brains, a Little Talent—Lola
A Man Doesn't Know—Joe Hardy & Meg Boyd
Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets-- Lola
Who's Got the Pain? --Lola & Senators (Originally, this came at the end of Act One, as "The Game" started Act Two)
The Game—Rocky, Smokey & Senators
Near to You—Joe Hardy and Meg Boyd (1994 IBDB shows the addition of Joe Boyd)
Those Were the Good Old Days—Applegate
Two Lost Souls—Lola and Joe Hardy (1994 IBDB shows Applegate, 1955 IBDB shows Hardy)
A Man Doesn't Know (Reprise) -- Meg Boyd and Joe Boyd
Joe Boyd — A middle-aged, overweight married man who is in love with baseball, especially the Senators [the "older" Joe Hardy]
Joe Hardy — The 22-year-old, home run hitting alter ego of Joe Boyd
Lola — The Devil's seductress assistant
Mr. Applegate — The Devil in disguise as a slick salesman
Meg Boyd — Joe's loyal, traditional wife
Van Buren — The hard working manager of the Washington Senators with great heart but no luck
Gloria Thorpe — A probing reporter
Rocky - A baseball player for the Washington Senators
Smokey - A pitcher for the Washington Senators
Doris — A friend of Meg
Sister — A friend of Meg
Others: Bouley(also called Ibsen in some productions), Vernon, Henry, Linville, Sohovik, Lowe, Mickey, Del, Mr. Welch, and The Commissioner
Baseball players and batboys; Baseball fans' wives
(The original Broadway version also had a children's chorus who sang the reprise of "Heart")
Recordings, film and television
The 1955 Original Broadway Cast recording is on RCA Victor, recorded May 8, 1955. The Lp was originally issued in mono but in 1965 RCA Victor offered an electrontic stereo version. The current CD edition was released in 1988. RCA Victor also released the film soundtrack in 1958. Although recorded in stereo, only the mono version was released. The 1989 CD edition marked the first release of the recording in stereo. The 1994 Broadway revival cast recording made by Mercury (and now on the Decca Broadway label) was released on May 17, 1994.
A film version, directed by George Abbott and Stanley Donen, was released in 1958. With the exception of Tab Hunter in the role of Joe Hardy (replacing Stephen Douglass), the Broadway principals reprised their stage roles. The film version is very similar to the stage version.
A made-for-TV movie version was broadcast on April 8, 1967 on NBC. Phil Silvers played Mr. Applegate. Also starring were Lee Remick as Lola and Ray Middleton as Joe Boyd.
It has been announced that a new contemporary film adaptation of the musical will star Jim Carrey as Applegate and Jake Gyllenhaal as Joe Hardy.
Awards and nominations
Best Musical WON
Best Performance By a Leading Actor in a Musical -- Ray Walston WON
Best Performance By a Leading Actor in a Musical --Stephen Douglass (nominated)
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical -- Gwen Verdon WON
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical-- Russ Brown WON
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical -- Rae Allen (nominated)
Best Conductor and Musical Director -- Hal Hastings WON
Best Choreography -- Bob Fosse WON
Stage Technician—Harry Green WON
1994 Broadway Revival
Best Revival of a Musical (nominee)
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical -- Victor Garber (nominated)
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical -- Jarrod Emick WON
Best Choreography--Rob Marshall (nominated)
Drama Desk Award
Outstanding Musical Revival—nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical—Jarrod Emick WON
Outstanding Orchestrations—Douglas Besterman (nominated)
Theatre World Award
Theatre World Award—Jarrod Emick
Theatre World Special Award—Jerry Lewis