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A devil of a deal

River Ridge High stages the popular story of an aging baseball fan who sells his soul to bring down the Yankees.

Published February 23, 2007

[Times photo: Julia Kumari Drapkin]
Billy Fox of Cotee River Elementary School watches anxiously as his sister Valarie Fox plays soccer during the Special Olympics Summer Games. Billy's whole family volunteered and participated in the day's events.

The musical Damn Yankees has been called "a devilish good musical" for at least two reasons.

It's "devilish" because of the main mover in the plot; it's "good" because of the high energy music and dancing.

The Broadway favorite will be performed by students of River Ridge High School today through Sunday at the school's Center for the Arts.

Damn Yankees has a large cast and a live orchestra from River Ridge Middle and High schools, directed by Travis Henry. Choreography is by Chris and Shanna Sell of the Sell's Broadway Dance Company studio in New Port Richey. Seven of the main characters are played by one set of performers tonight and Saturday afternoon, and by another set on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

That's because teacher and director Diana Rogers felt she was overloaded with talented players and wanted to give as many as possible a chance to shine, said assistant director Courtenay O'Connell.

In the musical, aging baseball fan Joe Boyd (River Ridge teacher Darrell Huling) loves the Washington Senators just about as much as he hates the New York Yankees, who seem to thwart his team's chances for the pennant every year.

One day after the Senators have had a particularly tough loss, Joe swears he'd sell his soul for a win. Shortly thereafter, he has a visitor, the amiable Mr. Applegate (Nick Boucher/Brandon Mauro) - in reality Satan himself - who makes Joe a tempting offer.

In exchange for his eternal soul, Joe can be transformed into a young baseball wizard named Joe Hardy (Austin Sille/Cody Artzner), who will lead the Senators to victory over the Yankees.

Joe hesitates; after all, he loves his wife, Meg (Briana Suojanen/Lexi Balestrieri). So Applegate offers Joe an escape clause: He can opt out any time within a year.

So, singing a sad farewell, Goodbye, Old Girl, Joe dons a uniform and becomes an overnight sensation on the baseball diamond, with hordes of adoring fans.

As the year inches by, though, Joe begins to have second thoughts. He loves Meg and wants to go back and be with her for the rest of his life.

That's when Applegate sends in the emergency reserves, namely the sexy Lola (Jesslyn Kostopoulos/Meaghan Jameson), who sold her soul to the devil centuries ago in return for eternal beauty and now has to do his bidding. She sings Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets as she slithers around the hapless Joe, but Joe isn't moved.

That's when Applegate pulls out all the stops, and the question becomes, "Will Joe Hardy see his beloved Senators through to the end?"

"This is a wonderful show," Ms. Rogers said, "and the kids are having a great time" performing it.

If you go

'Damn Yankees'

What: Damn Yankees, a musical.

Where: Center for the Arts at River Ridge High School, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey.

When: 7 p.m. today; 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets: $10, all seats reserved. Call (727) 774-7386, (727) 815-1117, or get them at the door.

[Last modified February 22, 2007, 23:25:14]

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