Johnson County Fairground — through Sunday, Sep. 27
On Friday, Sep. 18 Iowa City Community Theatre opened its 60th season with its production of the musical Damn Yankees, directed by Katie Boothroyd. With music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, and book by George Abbot and Douglas Wallop, this 1955 classic is the perfect kick-off to a season dedicated to celebrating ICCT’s six decades of community theatre.
From start to finish, ICCT’s season opener delights. It was a joy to see members of the orchestra (and even some ushers!) decked out in baseball fan paraphernalia, carrying the spirit of the show. It always makes an overture more enjoyable to see the orchestra creatively featured instead of hidden away, and this is an area where ICCT excels. It’s done often out of necessity … but always to great effect. In this case, the orchestra is set up bandstand-style behind the simple, open set designed for the show.
There were some amazing performances in this cast. Particular stand-outs included the ballplayers — Brandon Burkhardt, Mickey Motyko, Joe Mozena, Nick Rudzianski, and Austin Wicke truly clicked as an ensemble, making signature numbers such as “Heart” and “The Game” into real showstoppers. They were helped by some lovely choreography by ICCT first-timer Payton Proud. Also impressive was the sheer enthusiasm of Amy Timperley as Sister Miller; she was always engaged and compelling — a pleasure to watch.
Patricia Dawn Clark as Meg Boyd was a conundrum. While she was obviously too young for the role, it was nevertheless easy to see why she was chosen. She is an amazingly sensitive listener, and a wonderful scene partner. I wish they had opted to grey her hair or otherwise age her, so that she wouldn’t have stood out so starkly. She played well against both Tom Schulein’s Joe Boyd and Jaecob Lynn’s Joe Hardy, but seemed much closer in age to Lynn, which made for some awkward moments.
In a show about the devil, it would behoove the production team to remember that “the devil is in the details.” There were a few picayune specifics that really pulled me out of the action, such as the lack of cleats for the ballplayers, incongruous dark nail polish on some of the women, ballplayer Joe Mozena’s era-inappropriate long ponytail and the awkward way in which Josh Sazon’s otherwise delightful Mr. Applegate held his cigarette. It was also odd that they chose to feature a version of the team logo used by a different club of the same name in the 1960s.
Overall, however, the production was charming and joyful. The second act, in particular, sparkled. From the generous scenes between Lynn’s Hardy and Sydney Hayes as Lola, to the delightful background children and other bit players, this show proves that the song has it right: “All you really need is heart.”
Damn Yankees runs at the Johnson County Fairgrounds through Sep. 27. Ticket and showtime information is available online.