Damn Yankees

Damn Yankees - Original West End Production - 1957

Damn Yankees - 1st West End Revival - 1997


Musical comedy that tells the story of a die-hard baseball fan who sells his soul to the devil in order to become the world's greatest player. Features the hit songs 'Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)', '(You Gotta Have) Heart' and 'Those Were The Good Old Days'. Written by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross with book by George Abbot and Douglass Wallop, based on Douglass Wallop's novel 'The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant'. The 1997 revival featured revisions by Jack O'Brien.

Although the musical centred on the classic 'sell-your-soul-to-the-devil' plotline, the American baseball setting was always going to be a hard-sell for unfamiliar London audiences. Despite this the original production, staged in the huge barn-of-a-theatre that is the London Coliseum, managed a respectable seven month run. The 1997 revival was less fortunate. Presented as a star-vehicle for Jerry Lewis - who did his own 15 minute 'Jerry Lewis Show' vaudevillian act at the end - the show could only manage a two month run, with an advertised transfer to another theatre never materialising.


Original London West End Production - Damn Yankees 1957

Opened 28 March 1957, Closed 9 November 1957 at the London Coliseum

The cast features Bill Kerr as 'Applegate', Belita (Maria Belita Jepson-Turner) as 'Lola' (up to Saturday 22 June 1957), Betty Paul as 'Meg' and Ivor Emmanuel as 'Joe Hardy', Elizabeth Seal as 'Lola' (from Monday 24 June 1957). Directed by James Hammerstein from the original by George Abbott, with choreography by Zoya Leporska fro the original by Bob Fosse and designs by William Eckart and Jean Eckart.


Damn Yankees - 1st London West End Revival 1997

Previewed 29 May 1997, Opened 4 June 1997, Closed 9 August 1997 at the Adelphi Theatre
An expected transfer to the Savoy Theatre from 16 October 1997 was cancelled

A major revival - direct from Broadway - of the classic musical Damn Yankees in London starring Jerry Lewis

Jerry Lewis, legendary entertainer and star, director, writer and producers of over 60 films, comes to London's West End for the first time in a spectacular, triumphant musical full of great songs, great dancing and great fun. The cast features Jerry Lewis as 'Applegate' and April Nixon as 'Lola'. Directed by Jack O'Brien with choreography by Rob Marshall.

"Damn Yankees is a stroll in the ball park for Jerry Lewis. The Hollywood veteran does little more than walk on and off stage every now and again at London's Adelphi Theatre, but he is the star of the Fifties baseball musical all right. He plays the devil, and although he may not have all the best tunes he lights up the stage - with or without the flame-throwing special effects... April Nixon lends sensational support as legendary seductress Lola who uses legs that go on forever to get whatever she wants... It is feel-good. It is fun. And it deserves to be a big hit." The Daily Mirror

"Nobody talks about the importance of dance in musicals anymore, but as this exuberant revival of Damn Yankees proves, you can dance your way to success. Jack O'Brien's astute direction cannot save the ludicrous plot and some performances are not so much Broadway as downright broad, but the superbly energetic company could run a power station let alone a musical... Even to someone who can't tell a bunt from a loaded base, the show achieves lift-off with the terrific baseball sequences showing off the team's terrible game. Rob Marshall's choreography is deeply indebted to Bob Fosse's original work and not just the elbows akimbo, knocked-kneed, jaunty-hat stuff, but the boisterous athleticism too... The show gives in to star power in Jerry Lewis's act two show-off number and he stops dead to deliver 10 minutes of his vaudeville act, but elsewhere he laps up the opportunity to play it (relatively) straight, displaying a wicked urbanity as Applegate... Overall, there is too much 'musical comedy acting' and not enough truth, but compared with the automated Beauty and the Beast, this is a triumph of energy over engineering" The Financial Times

"Although not overly-impressed by the revival of the 1955 George Abbott and Douglass Wallop-scripted musical when I saw it on Broadway, I must confess that Jack O'Brien's production, now at the Adelphi Theatre in London, grows on one - Mr Lewis included. He plays the devil in a daft story about a baseball fan who sells his soul for the chance to help his second-rate team eclipse the invincible Yankees. Fortunately for the show, and my health, Lewis only occasionally allows that inane kid character to intrude. To give the devil his due, it's mostly an engaging and funny performance. He is aided and abetted by a cracking company in which April Nixon, as the temptress Lola, is outstanding... And there are some good, rousing songs in a score, by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, which ignores the old adage that the devil has all the best tunes (he does have one belter, though, Those Were The Good Old Days)." The News of the World

"That Fifties period piece, Damn Yankees, has been authentically revived down to the last bow by an all-American team. They don't make 'em like this any more, thank goodness. It's entertaining and extravagantly slow, but if you've got the time and the inclination, it looks terrific, and a couple of numbers - 'You've Gotta Have Heart' and 'Lola Gets What Lola Wants' - are real winners... It's at its best when it goes all out for camp in the fantastically well-drilled ensemble numbers when the baseball team goof off and, wrapped in towels, do the can-can or tap-dance on the locker roof, or when the Devil appears in a great puff of smoke and makes sparks fly from anything he touches. Lewis, the legendary American comic, gives a most peculiar performance, acting - hardly the word for the eye-crossing and self-congratulatory, super-smug mugging that goes on - as if he's the only person on stage. He takes this to its ultimate conclusion with a 15-minute vaudevillian act on which he steps out of his devilish character." The Mail on Sunday

Damn Yankees in London at the Adelphi Theatre previewed from 29 May 1997, opened on 4 June 1997 and closed on 9 August 1997