Reviewed on Wednesday 8th October 2014
Damn Yankees is an odd show, not to mention that the sport of baseball makes a bizarre choice of subject matter for a musical. The addition of a Faustian pact from a devil (Jonathan D Ellis), who does a (hilarious) song and dance number in act two, results in a piece which at times feels more like a bad trip than a night at the theatre. Undeterred, the powers that be at the Landor have decided to revive this old curiosity for 4 weeks at their bijou venue.
The show originally opened on Broadway in 1955. It's common that musicals of this era combine dialogue, song and dance in equal measure, requiring a cast full of triple-threats; that's a pretty big ask for a profit-share contract which certainly shows in this production.
Although the dance numbers are universally slick (with dynamic choreography from Robbie O'Reilly) and singing is consistently good, the cast of twenty fare less well when it comes to the implementation of believable dialogue. Some cast members are nearly impossible to understand, some speak in such monotone as to make them totally disinteresting and the accents, in general, are all over the place. If the characters are nearly all supposed to be in Washington, you'd never guess it from the way they talk!
Despite this, the show rattles along well under the direction of Robert McWhir and provides a good night's entertainment, but I'm not sure even the cream of the West End could succeed in making this a five star show; the odd, dated material prevents this possibility.
Some cast members shine; Alex Lodge does a wonderful job as Joe Hardy with great characterisation, dancing and singing (although every sung note is unmistakably English), Poppy Tierney has a back to die for in 'that dress' and makes light work of the famous 'Whatever Lola Wants' number and the humorous duo of Leah Pinney and Sophie May Whitfield are consistently ridiculous throughout as Doris and Sister. West End veteran Tony Stansfield also impresses, bringing a wonderful truth to every moment on stage and making it all look ever so easy.
It's a large cast for a small space and the creative team make great use of it - the numbers never seem cramped and the simple but effective set design sets the scene well. I had an enjoyable evening and laughed out loud more than once ('Those Were The Good Old Days' was the comedic highlight of the show) but despite the best efforts of the cast, crew and creative team, Damn Yankees is not a show I'd rush to see again.
Reviewed by Jody Tranter
Damn Yankees runs at the Landor Theatre until Saturday 8th November 2014.
Please visit www.landortheatre.co.uk for info and tickets
Photo Credit: Roy Tan