Buoyed by a stellar cast that includes Brad Oscar fresh from "The Producers" on Broadway, Arena Stage grabs the pennant with an enormously engaging production of "Damn Yankees." Following Arena's riotous production of "Born Yesterday" in October, a.d. Molly Smith has staged a classy version of the Adler & Ross baseball tuner that stresses lively choreography, eye-popping costumes and oh-so-villainous fiends.
Buoyed by a stellar cast that includes Brad Oscar fresh from “The Producers” on Broadway, Arena Stage grabs the pennant with an enormously engaging production of “Damn Yankees.” ‘Tis the season for revivals with D.C. themes. Following Arena’s riotous production of “Born Yesterday” in October, a.d. Molly Smith has staged a classy version of the Adler & Ross baseball tuner on the theater’s four-sided Fichandler stage that stresses lively choreography, eye-popping costumes and oh-so-villainous fiends.The luxury of a plentiful budget pays off with an abundance of creativity and fastidious attention to detail, visible in every aspect of this endearing musical about the Washington Senators and a certain Faustian bargain with the devil. It’s evident from the enjoyable opening number with its line of spinning television sets, Rachael Hauck’s plain but effective set with rising locker room and countless other touches. Even the pre-show announcements were intoned by Philip Hochberg, who manned the microphone at RFK Stadium here for 30 years. Baayork Lee’s choreography and Martin Pakledinaz’s vivid costumes are a constantly amazing tandem, especially in the jazzy and satanic number “Two Lost Souls,” a blizzard of red dancing. The principal roles are in terrific hands. The devilish Mr. Applegate is evil incarnate thanks to Oscar, who has just completed a lengthy run as Max Bialystock. (A native of nearby Rockville, Md., Oscar is making his Arena debut.) He’s as slimy as they come in a perf that peaks with the delicious number about the good old days of demonhood. “I was brimming with pride when Bonnie met Clyde,” he sneers in the number, enhanced by more of Lee’s clever choreography. As the devil’s assistant, Lola, Meg Gillentine is a delightfully saucy seductress who takes command the instant she hits the stage. Her polished “Whatever Lola Wants” clears the fence with ease, as does her intro number, “A Little Brains, a Little Talent.” Matt Bogart is also on target as “Shoeless” Joe Hardy, the clueless good guy living out his baseball fantasy. This Broadway and Arena Stage vet is completely at home in such leading-man roles, with his earnest manner and pleasant voice. Other enjoyable perfs are turned in by Lawrence Redmond as the aging baseball dreamer and Kay Walbye as the long-suffering wife. Cindy Marchionda is every bit the enterprising but annoying sports reporter she should be. The crew is backed up by a polished chorus of teammates and others who do great justice to Adler & Ross classics like “Heart” and “Who’s Got the Pain.” “Yankees” is one of those revivals that translates well to modern auds despite its homespun themes from a bygone era. Good music, as they say, never goes out of style.