RANDOLPH, NJ This past weekend the cast and crew of Randolph High School's spring musical Damn Yankees blew audiences away with a show that was not only fun and full of energy, but also showcased the incredible amount of talent the dedicated students had to offer to the stage.
Damn Yankees is the story of a man named Joe Boyd (Sam Friedland). He is so dedicated to his favorite baseball team the Washington Senators, that he is willing to sell his soul to a devil who goes by the name Mr. Applegate (Christian Harvey) for a chance to win Washington the pennant.
Joe is transformed into a younger version of himself, and reluctantly leaves his loving wife Meg (Lauren Goldman), takes on the alias Joe Hardy (Jesse Bush) and takes his place as a player on the Senators. Before he is transformed, he convinces Mr. Applegate to allow him an "escape clause" that would give him a chance to go back to his old life the night before the championship game against the Yankees.
As Joe struggles to keep his identity hidden from a nosy reporter named Gloria (Emily Weiner), Mr. Applegate enlists the help of his "favorite home-wrecker" Lola (Lea Sevola), a beautiful woman whose soul he owns, to get Joe to leave Meg and his old life behind.
Lola tries to seduce Joe, but his love for his wife is too strong, and Lola begins to develop feelings for Joe and wants to help him out. Applegate must take drastic measures to ensure that he wins Joe's soul, so he starts a rumor that Joe is actually a corrupt Mexican League player named Shifty McCoy.
While Joe is sent to trial over these accusations, we see that the separation between him and Meg becomes harder and harder for both of them to bear, and Mr. Applegate's true plan comes to light. He wants to force Joe to lose the final game once he has forfeited his soul, to cause a misery among the numerous fans who wanted the Yankees to lose.
Lola helps Joe by drugging Applegate so that he will sleep through the game, allowing Joe to win. However, Applegate awakens in time to force the team to lose by changing Joe back into his old self.
Joe manages to still win the game for the team, before disappearing back to Meg, ignoring Applegate's demands for him to return to his youth and glory.
The show was filled with captivating song and dance numbers. From the very first minute of the show, as the cast took the stage for the high energy show-starter "Six Months Out Of Every Year," the audience knew they were in for a great performance.
The music was done exceptionally well, with each song making it harder and harder to choose a favorite. The high energy numbers such as the large and impressive dance "Shoeless Joe" lead by Emily Weiner as Gloria, and the funny anthem of the players of the Washington Senators, "The Game", were exciting to watch as each member of the cast put their individual flair on the songs.
Some of the slower solos and duets such as "Near To You" and "A Man Doesn't Know" performed by Jesse Bush and Lauren Goldman were just as entertaining as the exciting dance numbers. The tenderness between the two characters was done so well, and Goldman and Bush's voices complimented each other perfectly. It brought chills to the audience.
Senior Lauren Goldman even brought some to tears with her sentimental and charming performance as Meg Boyd.
"There is such a sweetness and purity about her." Goldman said. "Her love for Joe is so strong, and she never doubts that he will come back to her for a second. There is something to be said for a person who is so strong and giving. There was a part of me that really connected with her story, and I knew I had to bring life to her."
The longing romance between Joe and Meg throughout the play gave it such a genuine romantic sweetness. This was balanced seamlessly with moments of comic relief from the baseball team members such as Rocky played by Vincent D'Alessandro, Smokey played by Matt Ludwig, and Benny Van Buren played by Jason Perniciaro. Great performances also by their extremely dedicated fans Doris played by Jenna Collins, and sister played by Alex Stifelman.
A favorite part of the show was the life and attitude brought to the character of Mr. Applegate by actor Christian Harvey. Harvey's confident stage presence immediately demanded attention. The freshman actor did an amazing job of taking a manipulative and heartless villain that would be easy to hate, and making the audience really like him at times.
"He was a tough character to get because he is very evil, but also very sleek and cunning." said Harvey. "Before every scene I would think of why I'm in the scene. I would ask myself: Who, what, where, when, and why. I feel this technique really helped solidify Mr. Applegate."
Another person who held absolutely nothing back was senior Lea Sevola, who played the part of Applegate's seductive henchman Lola. Most young actresses would be hesitant about playing such a bold and directly sexy character, but Sevola went all in and gave the part everthing that she had.
"I always seem to get cast as the promiscuous role in the RHS shows, so I was both simultaneously shocked and un-shocked when I was cast as Lola." Said Sevola. "But what was great about her was that she was so much more than the devil’s seductive assistant; she goes on this really intense emotional journey during the show and has some very real and authentic moments. I absolutely loved playing her and bringing her to life in my own way."
While boldly going all out on the more risqué parts of Lola's character, Sevola also fully expressed those serious changes in her character throughout the show, and had the crowd cheering by the time that she finally stood up against Applegate for what she believed in.
The entire cast made the show so enjoyable to watch because it was very clear that they were enjoying themselves while performing. There was a clear sense of unity among the cast when they were on stage, and even some glimpses of it when the curtain was closing as quick moments of congratulations, dancing, and laughter could be seen between actors as they walked off stage.
"We all agreed that we were like one huge family and that there were no dramatic cliquey-things going on, which was great. There’s nothing better than a cast that loves each other," said Sevola.
Harvey agreed with her, saying, "My favorite part of the musical was getting to know everyone and creating chemistry with my fellow actors. I felt this was important because without that chemistry the show wouldn't go on."
The friendship carried over to the stage, as it showed that everyone is the cast was connected throughout, and they all supported each other wholeheartedly.
At the very end of the final show on Saturday night, as the cast thanked their directors and staff members, senior Matt Ludwig led his cast mates in cheers for each advisor as they approached the stage, leaving everyone laughing.
Others held onto their friends for dear life as the tears mixed with laughter, realizing that this was their final show.
Sevola, who plans to study theatre in college, marks this as the last time she will get to perform in a Randolph production, but is glad to be leaving this stage on such a high note. "I’ll never forget all the laughs backstage, all the inside jokes, all the excited hugs, the standing ovations…all of it. This has been my best high school theatre experience, hands down. I’m going to hold onto that forever."
After closing the curtain on a very successful show, Goldman was both sad to see it end, but also proud to have watched the show succeed so much.
"If there is anything I have learned from theatre and performing, it’s that you never truly say goodbye. This type of experience is imprinted in your heart. It stays a part of you forever."
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