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Sunscreen, lemonade, and days at the beach complete summer. And of course, baseball must be part of the mix.

America's pastime served as a catalyst for Memorial Theatre Company's production of "Damn Yankees," opening July 10 at the Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso.

"This is a classic play with real high energy," said producer Kurt Gillins.

"(The audience) gets great music, quite a few songs they already know, (and) the love of baseball."

But the musical delves into more than just baseball. Gillins points out that the love story in addition to the boys of summer makes the play not only a classic but also "(a) lot of fun."

"Damn Yankees" follows the Faustian-tale of Joe Boyd, a middle-age baseball fan who bemoans the constant losses of his beloved Washington Senators to the perennial World Series champs the New York Yankees, who, even in the 21st century, continue to frustrate rival sports teams and fans.

Based on Douglass Wallop's 1954 novel "The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant," the musical examines how far an individual will go, even giving up his soul, to achieve material success. But in the end, true love beats Beelzebub's power. Wallop co-authored the book for the musical with George Abbott. Richard Adler and Jerry Ross penned the score and lyrics.

When Joe states he would sacrifice his soul for a win, Satan, aka. Mr. Applegate, tells Joe he will not only have his team win, but he will have Joe play an integral part in the Senators' success. Mr. Applegate then turns Joe Boyd into Joe Hardy, an athletic man of 22. If Joe decides after his first season he's not cut out for his new life, Mr. Applegate will allow Joe to return to his previous life and wife Meg. If not, Mr. Applegate has Joe's soul for eternity.

But, as in real life, no contract is ever broken easily, and Mr. Applegate sends his assistant, the formerly physically repulsive but now beautiful Lola, to have Joe forget Meg and his morality. Lola sings one of the musical's well-known songs "Whatever Lola Wants."

Unlike Miramax which is remaking and updating "Damn Yankees," Gillins and crew are sticking with the play's 1950s era.

"We're keeping (our production) vintage," he said. "We rented vintage-looking baseball uniforms from a place in Arizona."

"Damn Yankees" marks the directorial debut of Memorial Theatre actor Craig Golbesky.

"This is going very well," Gillins said about Golbesky's direction, adding Golbesky was given the chance because of "(h)is commitment to our theater, and he really brought a good proposal to our table."

The play stars Michele Gustin-Craig as Lola and Brian Conger as Mr. Applegate. The roles of Joe Boyd and Joe Hardy are played by Tony Balsamo and Trevor Bruss, respectively. Like director Golbesky, all lead actors have starred in past Memorial Theatre productions.

When "Damn Yankees" premiered on Broadway in 1955, it broke the failure of baseball plays according to The musical ran for over a thousand performances and was later adapted for the big screen in 1958. Among the Broadway and film cast was eventual director-choreographer Bob Fosse.

Memorial Theatre's next endeavors are "Little Shop of Horrors" in September, "Gypsy" in November, and "Nuncrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Musical" in December. Auditions will take place on July 19 and 20 from 7 to 10 p.m. for "Horrors," and on Sept. 13 and 14 from 7 to 10 p.m. for "Gypsy."


Damn Yankees

When: 8 p.m. July 10, 16, 17, 24; 2 p.m. July 11, 18, 25

Where: Memorial Opera House, 104 Indiana Ave., Valparaiso

Tickets: $15; $12 students and seniors 62 and older

For more info: (219) 548-9137