• 68°

#039;Damn Yankees#039; hits home run with children

As the house lights dimmed, the general hubbub changed and grew to an impossibly loud joyous cheer. It was an impressively large reception yesterday morning from what, in a sense, will be the smallest audience to be entertained this year by the talented thespians of Ironton High School.

As if they were Hollywood luminaries or hotshot Broadway producers, Lawrence County students in first through sixth grades got a sneak peek at Ironton High School's latest theatrical production, "Damn Yankees," Wednesday morning. The cast has been honing its show for two months, and if Wednesday's reaction was any indication, the cast is more than ready.

Audiences young and old are in for a devilish treat with IHS' new offering, which tells the story of elderly Joe Boyd (stunningly sung by Elliott Cunningham) who trades his soul to the Devil (sinfully charming Eric Brown) in exchange for the youth and skill to lead his favorite team, the long-suffering Washington Senators, to the World Series.

Boyd is transformed into "Shoeless Joe" Hardy, who sets his team on the winning path only to realize that he misses his elderly wife Meg and the life he has left behind. Through a series of mishaps and crowd-pleasing tunes, Joe attempts to set things right, despite the best efforts of the Devil, and his tantalizing temptress, Lola, to keep Joe on the road to eternal torment.

Something for all

Friends McKenzie Yates and Amanda Harper portray demonic seductress Lola and Joe's wife Meg, respectively. The duo has paid their dues in the choruses of previous shows such as "Bye Bye, Birdie" and "The Pajama Game," but in "Damn Yankees" both get their chances to shine.

Harper thought that long-time Ironton theatre patrons would enjoy the show, but she hoped that it might bring in some new faces.

"This one can relate to all audiences. Normally, girls are more into the stories we've had before because they've been more love stories," Harper said. "But this one is about baseball, so guys can relate more. So it appeals to both males and females, because we do have a love story Š and Lola, the guys like Lola."

The introduction of the baseball storyline of "Damn Yankees" wasn't just to rope in male audience members, but also male performers, according to director Katherine Price.

"It's a lot easier to say 'Hey guys, come be in 'Damn Yankees,' you get to dress up in baseball uniforms!'" Price said, "As opposed to, 'Hey guys, come be in 'Camelot,' you get to wearŠ tights.'"

Whatever Lola wants

If, as Harper insisted, the guys "like" Lola, then the elementary and middle school students at yesterday's morning performance loved Lola. As she slinked her way through the show-stopping, "What Lola Wants," the magic of theatre was truly evidenced as the male tykes created a cacophony that Madison Square Garden could only dream of.

Heaps of cheers from the children were the rule rather than the exception, almost to the point of distraction. But performer Chris Brown, who portrays baseball player "Rocky," said that rather than cause him to lose his focus; the kids' exuberance gave him and the cast an extra boost.

"We just feed off of it. That's one of our favorite performances, because they get really interactive," Brown said. "It's a lot of fun."

They weren't the only ones enjoying themselves. Though the children were loudly and rambunctiously appreciative, it wasn't just rowdiness, most seemed to be genuinely entranced by the story.

Ironton Middle School sixth-grader Cody Nunley was already making predictions at intermission as to what he thought the show's second act would bring.

"I think that the Devil's probably going to change his costume later and have like, a pitchfork and a cape and horns and stuff," Cody said.

Fellow sixth-grader Robby Pemberton agreed with his friend's assessment of the show's quality.

"It was really good," Robby said, "I think the actors in it are also really great."

Though he and Nunley were thoroughly entertained, it wasn't difficult for Pemberton to select his favorite scene of the production.

"I think the best part was in the locker room, when the girl (Lola) was dancing around and stuff," Robby said, as Cody giggled in agreement. "I thinkŠyeah, that was the best part."

Slightly more mature (though maybe not as energetic) audiences can select their own favorite scene from "Damn Yankees" at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday


at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Ironton High School Auditorium. All shows are $12.50 for reserved seating, $6 for adults and $3 for students.