The Siegel Column

Last thoughts on Damn Yankees ...

Clearly, last season's Gypsy at City Center was a tough act to follow. The Encores! three-week production of Damn Yankees this season was not the hit that its producers might have hoped, but expectations based on last year's success probably raised the bar too high for almost any show to match. Nonetheless, looking back at Damn Yankees, we thought we make a list of what was learned from this admirable production ...

  1. Cheyenne Jackson has emerged as Broadway's number one leading man. Any musical that gets him next after Xanadu can count on having a star of heroic quality as well as garnering an actor with genuine drawing power.
  2. Jane Krakowski is likeable and a terrific sport to learn Gwen Verdon's Fosse choreography, but she needs a role tailored to her own talent in order to shine rather than having a role (or at least the choreography) foisted upon her.
  3. Sean Hayes should do a club act at Feinstein's or the Oak Room. His Liberace bit during "Those Were the Good Old Days," coupled with his fine voice and sly personality suggests that he'd be sure-fire putting on a solo show.
  4. We want to see more of P.J. Benjamin; we hope his wonderful performance in Damn Yankees gives his senior career a shot in the arm.
  5. Randy Graff can do no wrong.
  6. Veanne Cox can do no wrong.
  7. This three week Summer slot should become the equivalent of a Broadway tryout every year; some will make the transfer and some will not, but what a perfect way to find out while still making money and providing a showcase for Broadway talent.

[title of show] Charms on Broadway

Regardless of the commercial struggle taking place at the Lyceum Theatre, [title of show]'s creators and stars Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell have done something little remarked upon: like Spring Awakening, Passing Strange, and In the Heights, they are part of the youth movement that is claiming the Broadway musical as its own. Oddly enough, however, for all their cheeky humor and their show's micro-budget, the underlying sensibility of Bowen and Hunter is probably more pure musical theater than any of the others. Based on the show they have put on, one suspects that if someone handed them fifteen millions dollars to write a new musical, it would be far more influenced by Stephen Sondheim than by Stew.

Be that as it may, these two groundbreaking young men will have surely inspired Broadway wannabe's for decades to come. In a very real way, they have insured that the Broadway community will continue to give hope to young, up-and-coming talents who have neither money nor connections but who do have an idea and the drive to make it happen. Bravo to the boys.

Now, let's say that [title of show] continues to limp through the summer and finally closes in September. It might not be what Bowen and Bell would prefer, but it seems like this show can easily re-open again in the spring somewhere Off-Broadway this time, and our stars could recount their Broadway and post-Broadway experiences. The show, with yearly updates on the lives and careers of our two heroes and their two female co-stars, might be an annual something akin to Forbidden Broadway. Something to look forward to!

Kicking a Dead Horse. A very dead horse

We will be brief. Stephen Rea is a great actor miscast in a dreadful Sam Shepard play. We could watch Rea perform all night but preferably not in this obvious and pretentious play. Is that brief enough?

-- Barbara and Scott Siegel

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