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Curtain Rises: MunOpCo calls up ‘Yankees’

MunOpCo Music Theatre will present an updated version of the 1955 musical comedy, “Damn Yankees,” Sept. 17 - 25, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 1533 Hamilton St., Allentown.

The classic show opens MunOpCo’s 95th season. According to the MunOpCo website, “in the summer of 1928, the director of the Allentown Recreation Commission approached Errol K. Peters, an Emmaus High School music director, with an idea to organize a men’s chorus under the sponsorship of the recreation commission and the YMCA. It was then that the Municipal Opera Company was born.” The organization was incorporated in 1946.

“Damn Yankees” is a musical comedy based on Douglass Wallop’s 1954 novel, “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant.” The story is a retelling of the Faust legend set in Washington, D.C., during the 1950s when the New York Yankees dominated Major League Baseball.

The show was written by Wallop and George Abbott, with music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross.

The musical follows middle-aged real estate agent Joe Boyd who makes a deal with the devil to become a star hitter for his favorite baseball team, the Washington Senators, in order to win the pennant. However, he must leave behind his wife Meg.

MunOpCo is staging the 1994 Broadway revival of “Damn Yankees,” which was revised by Jack O’Brien.

MunOpCo Director Shannon O’Grady says the original show was a star vehicle for Tony-winning singer-dancer Gwen Verdon, who later married choreographer Bob Fosse. Verdon played Lola, a seductress who tempts Joe.

“While we recognize the genius of both humans, most theater professionals agree that their work on this particular show was more self-serving than loyal to the source material,” says O’Grady.

“As much as we love Lola, this show is not about her. It’s about the trials and tribulations faced in Meg’s and Joe’s marriage.

“People love classics, but times change and hopefully we evolve,” O’Grady says.

According to O’Grady, the modernized version focuses more on the relationship between Meg and Joe:

“How do we tackle problematic material that’s sandwiched between terrific musical numbers and a core relationship that stands the test of time?

“Relationships are challenging even in the best of times. How many can withstand the greatest temptations? How many people truly appreciate the people they have until they lose them?” asks O’Grady.

Joe and Meg Boyd are played by Bob Calder and Gabrielle Visser Trumbull, respectively.

Joe’s younger incarnation Joe Hardy is played by Justan Parker Fields.

Mike Daniels plays the devilish Mr. Applegate. Krystal Spiegler plays Applegate’s sultry minion Lola.

The cast includes Sarah J. Davis, Tony Kohl, Mike Corcoran, Sue Matol, Cindy Ernst, Deven Windisch, Connor Roberts, Sean MacFarland, Crystal Williams, Jackson DeJesus, Nadia Boujeljel, Tessa Dejesus, Colton Boyd and Connie Santos.

Santos is costume designer.

Music director is Cheryl Baker.

Choreographers are O’Grady and Jaedon Muhl.

Performances: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 17, 23, 24; 2 p.m. Sept. 18, 25.

Tickets: https://www.munopco.org; 610-437-2441

Chekhov satire:

Between the Lines Studio Theatre will present “Stupid F- - - - - - Bird,” a satirical adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s 1896 play, “The Seagull,” Sept. 16 - 25, in the company’s theater, 725 N.15th St., Allentown.

The play was written by playwright Aaron Posner, co-founder of the Arden Theatre Company, Philadelphia. Posner has written multiple adaptations of Chekhov and Shakespeare works.

The play follows Conrad (Jon Riker), a struggling playwright who is trying to write a new play. As the play opens, Conrad is preparing to stage his play at the home of his overbearing mother Emma (Julia Urich).

Director Nicole Anderson says the irreverent show pits the younger generation against the older generation in search of the true meaning of life while discovering how disappointing love, art and growing up can be.

The cast includes Jamie LeRaye (Nina), Jacob Schippell (Dev), Ash Miller (Mash), Justin Larson (Doyle) and Pat Kelly (Sorn).

Performances: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16, 17, 23, 24; 2 p.m. Sept. 18, 25.

Tickets: betweenthelinestheatre.com/

Emmaus “Side Show”:

Star of the Day presents “Side Show The Musical,” Sept. 16 - 25, St. John’s UCC, 139 N. Fourth St., Emmaus.

“Side Show,” a musical written by Bill Russell, Henry Krieger and Bill Condon, is based on the story of Violet and Daisy Hilton, conjoined twins who became famous vaudeville performers in the 1930s.

Star of the Day will present the musical in the round in the style of a circus side show.

“Though set nearly a hundred years ago, this show takes a look at many of the same issues we face today including racism, rejection, abuse, unrequited love and sexuality. In the end, we are all just people. That’s the message we are putting out there,” says Director Daniel Petrovich.

Choreographer is company founder Kirsten Almeida.

The cast includes Lauren Erb (Violet), Alyssa Steiner (Daisy), Jay Fuentes (Sir), David Erb (Buddy), Jaime Torres(Terry), Shy Torres (Jake), Gabe Kutz (Ray-Houdini), Krista Metter (The Fortune Teller), Christine Renner Ebert (Auntie-The Bearded Lady), Allie Sacher (Lawyer-Lizard Lady), Abby Roth (Tattoo Girl-Dance Captain), Andy Alulis (Three Legged Man), Christy Dunbar (Human Pin Cushion), Kyleigh Vicoso (The Side Show Geek), Leah Trunsky (Half Man-Half Woman), Cindi Surovi (Venus) and Carter Reichard (Buddy).

The wearing of face masks by theater-goers is required.

Performances: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16, 17, 23, 24; 3 p.m. Sept. 18, 25.

Tickets: https://www.staroftheday.org/; 484-809-9228

Curtain Rises” is a column about the theater, stage shows, the actors in them and the directors and artists who make them happen. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnonline.com

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Gabrielle Visser Trumbull (Meg Boyd), Bob Calder (Joe Boyd), “Damn Yankees,” MunOpCo Music Theatre.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Alyssa Steiner (Daisy Hilton), Lauren Erb (Violet Hilton), “Side Show: The Musical,” Star of the Day.