Director David C. Johnston calls it "a Faustian legend, a middle-age love story and America's past all rolled into a single evening of entertainment." Under the stars at Maui Tropical Plantation, Maui Academy of Performing Arts presents "Damn Yankees," the story of a middle-age baseball fan who sells his soul to the devil to become the long-ball hitter that his favorite team, the Washington Senators, needs to beat the Yankees for the pennant.
The plot might sound dark, but this is a 1950s Broadway musical, chock-full of optimism, lighthearted humor and sentimental romance.
"The sweet side of the story is that after he becomes this young ballplayer, he realizes how much he loves his wife and how much he misses her, so it becomes the story of this sweet middle-aged romance," said Johnston. "The whole point of the show, to me, is that he realizes he had everything he wanted, that he didn't really need to be a ballplayer, that his love for his wife and their relationship was far more important. So it's got a real sweet, wonderfully sentimental kind of ending. A happy ending! It's a musical from the '50s, so what do we expect?"
Applegate (Steve Hatcher) offers ballplayer Young Joe (Mark Bolden) a bargain he can’t refuse in MAPA’s production of “Damn Yankees,” opening this weekend under the stars at Maui Tropical Plantation.
Eric Rolph Photography photo
This nostalgic, feel-good comedy puts a uniquely upbeat spin on the Faustian legend. As Johnston puts it, "America and apple pie triumph over evil!"
Not only that, but the catchy tunes and clever choreography make this show a sensory delight. Choreographer Andre Morisette has a knack for bringing out the best in every dancer, even those with very little experience.
"Andre has really been a joy to work with," said Johnston. "Everybody loves him. He's getting amazing things out of the dancers, that is, nondancers who turned out to be dancers. He's amazing how he's able to take what they have and build on that."
Unlike Maui OnStage's recent production of "Chicago," which emphasized female dancers, "Damn Yankees" features a lot of dancing roles for men. "We have nine ballplayers," said Johnston, "and it's so fun to see nine men up onstage dancing together. It's pretty unusual for Maui."
As MAPA's third summer musical presented at Maui Tropical Plantation, the show is part of a growing tradition of outdoor theater.
"It's not just about the show, it's also about the experience," Johnston said. "People just love being outside, under the stars, enjoying theater. I think people are really starting to look forward to it. This is an experience you can't get the rest of the year. We only do this in the summer."
Although it occasionally puts a damper on performances, unpredictable weather also adds to the excitement. "There's that element of the weather always which gives it a little more of a charge," said Johnston. "What are we going to deal with tonight? Wind? Rain? And then last night I was out working late, doing the lights, because we can only do them after dark, obviously, and it was just the most glorious night. There was no wind to speak of, the stars were out, a meteor came floating across the sky at one point. It was just a perfect night. And I thought, ah, I hope it's like this for the run of the show!"
In addition to hoping for clear skies, Johnston plans to make the most of the outdoor setting by creating an energetic, ball park ambiance. "The way we designed the lights, it looks like the kind of light they have outdoors at a ball field," he said, "and we have people strolling through the crowds hawking crackerjacks and popcorn, so it has that festive feeling. Like I was saying before, this is about an experience, the experience of the community coming together in this great, fun atmosphere to share some storytelling and some entertainment."
* "Damn Yankees" plays at 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, this weekend through Aug. 21. Gates open at 6:15 p.m. Bring blankets or low beach chairs for lawn seating or sit in the bleachers. Call 244-8760 in advance to arrange special- needs seating. Tickets are $25 for adults, $22 for seniors (62 and older) and $18 for students (18 and younger). For tickets, visit www.mauiacademy.org or call the MAPA box office at 244-8760.
"All My Sons": Maui OnStage presents its August ONO! (One Night Only) performance: "All My Sons" by Arthur Miller. ONO! is an ongoing, free theater series made possible by the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the County of Maui. "All My Sons" is a classic 1940s American drama written by arguably the finest American dramatic playwright. It is the tale of a postwar Midwest family caught between ethics and survival. Joe Keller was a manufacturer of WWII airplane parts who may have been responsible for several crashes. The question is: When does "everyone was doing it" not fly? The Maui all-star cast is led by Robert E. Wills as Joe Keller, Barbara Sedano as Kate Keller, and Jerry Eiting as their war hero son, Chris Keller. The ensemble cast features Don Carlson ("To Kill A Mockingbird"), Maui directors Jennifer Rose and Lisa Teichner, Jackie Shea and Michael Pulliam ("Theophilus North"), and Eric Molina ("Sound of Music").
* "All My Sons" plays at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Historic Iao Theater. Admission is free; donations are encouraged. For more information, contact MauiOnStage at 242-6969 or visit www.mauionstage.com.