Blue Water bringing ‘Damn Yankees’ to the stage

Baseball musical comedy will run for three performances June 15-17

Blue Water Theatre Company actors rehearse June 4 for the group’s spring production of “Damn Yankees” in Blue Water’s new rehearsal and performance space, a century-old church in Wayzata. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Jason Jenkins)

Wayzata-based Blue Water Theatre Company will bring “Damn Yankees” to the stage for its spring musical.

The musical has become an American classic since it debuted in 1955. The show ran for more than 1,000 performances in its original Broadway production and took home the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1956.

“Damn Yankees” tells the story of Joe Boyd, played by Robbinsdale Cooper High School student Ryan Skarphol, a middle-aged baseball superfan who is a long-suffering fan of the Washington Senators. In a moment of desperation, Boyd trades his soul to the Devil, also know as Mr. Applegate, played by Wayzata High’s Jack Stetler, for a chance to lead his favorite team to a victory in the pennant race against the hated New York Yankees. He magically becomes 22-year-old baseball sensation Joe Hardy and transforms the hapless Senators into a winning team, only to later realize the true worth of the life that he left behind.

“It’s the story of his transformation of fulfilling that wish, but realizing that in making that agreement he has to leave behind his wife and his life and he comes to really learn over the course of the show what was truly important,” said director Charlie Leonard.

The show will run for three performances June 15-17 at Eisenhower Community Center in Hopkins. Leonard said he’s excited to give local theatre-goers a rare chance to catch a youth production of the musical comedy.

“It’s ridiculously fun, but nobody ever does it – at least it’s not a normal part of the high school theater repertoire,” Leonard said.

And despite the title, the director said, “Damn Yankees” is a perfectly entertaining show for all ages.

“My 6-year-old nephew who’s a huge baseball fan is going to come see the show,” Leonard said.

Included in the cast of around 50, which is comprised of student actors in grades 6-12 from schools around the Twin Cities metro area, is Wayzata High School student Lance Sorenson. The young actor will tackle the role of Mr. Welch, the protective and vocal owner of the Washington Senators.

“He’s really out there,” Sorenson said, adding that he hadn’t seen “Damn Yankees” before it was announced as the spring production, but has become a big fan of the musical.

Grace Vagle will play Meg Boyd, Joe’s steadfast wife. Vagle, a student of the St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, called her character “the typical ’50s housewife” and that she sees the musical as somewhat of a parody of that time period.

“It’s fun and entertaining and crazy,” she said, adding that the musical may be especially entertaining for baseball fans.

“It’s really funny, and if you’re a baseball fan, it will appeal to you because there’s a lot of baseball language in it and it deals a lot with the politics of baseball,” Vagle said.

Blue Water actors are rehearsing for “Damn Yankees” in the theatre troupe’s new home: A century-old Wayzata church located across the street from city hall at the corner of Rice Street and Walker Avenue. The church was formerly home to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Minnetonka, which recently completed construction on a new building in Wayzata’s Holdridge neighborhood.

The nonprofit theatre group plans to use the space for rehearsals and some performances. Leonard, who founded Blue Water in 2007, said the space has already received a positive response from audiences. Blue Water recently hosted “Honk! Jr.” as its first musical to be performed in the group’s new home.

Leonard said planned renovations include building out the stage and adding lighting and a new sound system for the 125-seat theatre.

Blue Water’s plan for now is to continue renting offsite auditoriums for its four larger mainstage productions that typically draw audiences of 400 to 500 people. Leonard said he hopes that over the next couple of years, Blue Water can shift the planning for its season so that more performances can be hosted at the historic church building, which was designed by prominent Minneapolis architect Harry Wild Jones.

“You can’t ask for much more than this location,” Leonard said. “It’s been so fun just to watch people use the building.”

If you go:

Blue Water Theatre Company presents “Damn Yankees”

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, June 15; 7 p.m. Friday, June 16; 7 p.m. Saturday, June 17

Where: Eisenhower Community Center, 1001 Highway 7, Hopkins

Info and tickets: bluewatertheatre.com

Contact Jason Jenkins at [email protected]