By Janice Llanes Fabry
Rye Neck High School presents “Damn Yankees!” at their Performing Arts Center March 1-3 at 7 with a special performance on March 3 at 1. The matinee will offer kids in the audience the opportunity to meet the cast and venture behind the scenes after the show.
“It’s a baseball-themed musical with a wonderful story. We’re hoping younger students come to the matinee and get excited about theater,” said Director Scott Harris. “The cast will come out to the lobby afterwards and take kids on a backstage tour. They can see the sets as well as the sound board.”
The musical comedy is about a middle-aged man, Joe Boyd, who loves his home team, the last-place Washington Senators. He makes a deal with the devil so they can beat “those damn Yankees.” A 1955 Tony award-winner, the play was not at all familiar to the 28 cast and 52 crewmembers.
“None of the students had seen the play or the movie because there hasn’t been a revival,” explained Harris. “For me, it has been fun to educate them and have them learn that older shows don’t necessarily equate to dusty, old, and boring.”
This modern retelling of Faust, complete with a baseball dugout and bleachers assembled and painted by the students, has undeniably show stopping numbers. They’re quite familiar to fans of a certain age, but songs like “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets” or the upbeat lyrics of “Heart” have a transcendent appeal.
The Theater Arts teacher makes a conscious effort to expose those high school students involved in the musical every year to a full-range of theatrical experiences. Last year, they did a modern musical, “Legally Blonde,” and the year before that they performed a fairy tale, “Into the Woods.”
“My goal this time was to do a classic American musical from the 1940s or 50s,” he said. “I saw ‘Damn Yankees’ as a kid with my father and loved it.”
A new music director, Kathryn Krull, has come on board this year, as well as a new choreographer, Francesca DeAngelo, the owner of New York Dance in Harrison. As it happens in the small world of theater, DeAngelo was Harris’ choreographer back when he was a young actor in a production of “The Wizard of Oz” at the Tarrytown Music Theater 18 years ago.
Among the students responsible for the production are stage manager Tom Bermingham, assistant stage managers Danny Morningstar and Jamie Strazza, technical director Joosep Juhkam, and lighting head Jake Guagnini. The talented ensemble includes senior Joshua Goldin-McCarthy as Joe Boyd, along with juniors Jazzy Cores (Lola), Bennett Taylor (Mr. Applegate/the Devil), and Grace O’Rourke (Meg Boyd).
“We have such talented students,” noted Harris. “If you cast the show right, you’ve done 90 percent of the job and each student’s natural energy goes to this character.”
Tickets are $15 for adults, and $10 for students and children. Visit rnhssm.booktix.com.
Director Scott Harris and the cast and crew of “Damn Yankees”