Thursday, February 13, 2014

Jerry Lewis’ genius continues in 'Damn Yankees’

[Note: This review originally appeared in The Kansas City Kansan on Nov. 10, 1995. The KC performance was part of a world tour that began when the Broadway run ended.]

By Steve Crum

There is good reason why the name Jerry Lewis is listed above the title in the revival of Damn Yankees, playing at Kansas City, Missouri’s Midland through Sunday. As good a production as it is, and this Broadway beaut is superb, it is star Lewis we anticipate. The star delivers. 

From his puffed-smoke entrance 10 minutes into Act 1 (as Applegate, the devil) to the rousing curtain call finale, King Clown reigns. Even at 69. Even though there is at times just the suggestion of that wiry, frenetic Borscht Circuit comic kid. Even when he is not on stage. If only Charisma by Jerry Lewis could be bottled.

Lewis is complemented by a polished cast and company, helmed by director Jack O’Brien, many who were part of the original Broadway revival troupe. Together they musically tell the story of a middle-aged Joe Boyd (a solidly heartwarming turn by Dennis Kelly) who trades his soul to the devil in return for a chance to be a young  baseball home runner with the Washington Senators. As young Joe, David Elder is exceptional, particularly in the “A Man Doesn’t Know" number.

Valerie Wright’s Lola, who is showcased in the originally Bob Fosse choreographed “Whatever Lola Wants” and the always fun to see “Who’s Got the Pain” number, is electric. Rob Marshall’s adapted choreography throughout, in fact, is clever and precise. Note the nifty “Blooper Ballet.” 

Susan Bigelow’s Meg (Joe’s loving, lonely wife) and Linda Gabler’s sports reporter, Gloria Thorpe, give energetic, fine work. The 1955 score by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross has never sounded fresher, even after repetitions of “Heart,” the play’s most enduring tune. 

But it comes back to Lewis’ Applegate to clearly steal the show. It happens during an Act 2 point in the devil’s solo, “Those Were the Good Old Days,” when it becomes Lewis’ Lewis. That is when he interpolates the tried and true Jerry Lewis cane catching routine. 

It is a clown trick we always enjoy seeing, especially when the clown is Jerry Lewis. 
The story behind the feud between Jerry Lewis and Bing Crosby:

1 comment:

  1. Saw the show in New York in 1995 and thoroughly enjoyed it! Jerry really was the hit of the show, and even brought in a little Jolson!