Old-fashioned in the best sense of the phrase, “Damn Yankees,” the 1950s-set musical about baseball, love and the devil, still serves up charm in the 21st century.
Foothill College Music Theatre’s vivacious version of the Tony Award-winning musical (done infrequently on the local theater circuit recently) is a good introduction for those who haven’t seen the show that launched the careers of Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, both Tony winners.
In Los Altos, the cast’s three-dozen-plus lively players bring the same enthusiasm to the stage as espoused in the show’s big tune, “Heart,” as in, “You Gotta Have Heart.” Reprised three times, it’s hard to miss.
Performances are strong all around, with standouts including Daniel Mitchell as young Joe Hardy, the talented ballplayer and alter ego of a middle-aged baseball fanatic, Joe Boyd, who sells his soul to the devil to help his failing team, the Washington Senators, beat the New York Yankees.
As Meg, the wife of the older Joe, Mary Melnick gives her character sympathy and pathos in two of the show’s less famous tunes, both about missing the person you love: the comic “Six Months Out of Every Year” and moving “A Man Doesn’t Know.”
Although it looks a little cliched today, Fosse’s signature sultry choreography — jazz hands, rolling shoulders and use of hats — is handled nicely, under direction of Katie O’Bryon and Jennifer Vaillancourt, in “Who’s Got the Pain?” and “Two Lost Souls.”
But the corps has fun throughout, and the young guys playing the baseball team are a real hoot as they toss bats around in “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo.,” their big number.
Jeff Clarke is appropriately cynical as the devil, disguised as a salesman called Applegate; his cohort in mayhem, Lola (Verdon’s breakout role), is played by Jen Wheatonfox, who sings “Whatever Lola Wants” well, but could be a tad more seductive.
Richard Lewis goes from a skeptic to a believer as manager Van Buren, who is blessed by a fantastic young player who comes out of nowhere, while Caitlin Lawrence-Papp does a fine job as the lady reporter who exposes the miraculous new player as a fraud.
Director Tom Gough, musical director Catherine Snider and the orchestra do a great a job with the nearly 60-year-old material (book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop, music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross), homing on the still-relevant magic of baseball and love rather than anything-but-edgy mid-20th-century mores.
Costume designer Janis Bergmann has gathered fantastic apparel from the era; vintage clothes fans will enjoy the array of the gals’ authentic fitted suits and colorful print dresses.
Presented by Foothill College Music Theatre
Where: Smithwick Theatre, Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes Aug. 18
Tickets: $12 to $28
Contact: (650) 949-7360, www.foothillmusicals.com