“With baseball season in full swing and a sexy sports scandal making headlines, Damn Yankees has opened with championship timing,” said Joe Dziemianowicz in the New York Daily News. Forget A-Rod and Madonna, this tale of “Faust, fastballs, and fidelity” mixed sex and pinstripes way back in 1955. A strong songbook by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross as well as Bob Fosse’s original choreography have made past revivals popular, and director John Rando here stays faithful to the original staging rather than opting for a tongue-in-cheek update. His all-star cast includes Sean Hayes of TV’s Will & Grace and 30 Rock’s Jane Krakowski. But not everything comes together, and Damn Yankees ends up being “a stand-up double rather than a home run.”
Though Hayes and Krakowski bring “hip pedigrees,” both strike out on stage, said Linda Winer in Newsday. As Mr. Applegate, the red-socked emissary from the devil who comes bearing a Faustian bargain for a Washington Senators fan desperate to beat the Yankees, Hayes displays dead-on comic timing. He appears uncomfortable on stage, however, in his Broadway debut. Krakowski is fetching as the blond temptress, Lola, but she isn’t much of a dancer, and can only awkwardly approximate moves created by Fosse with the vampish Gwen Verdon in mind. Cheyenne Jackson, of Broadway’s Xanadu, fares better as the shlubby Senators fan turned savior-slugger at the center of the story. Still, he sometimes misses the mark, seeming “moody and tormented” when he should appear “delightfully conflicted.”
Despite spotty performances, the production emphasizes the musical’s “melodic tunes and feel-good spirit,” said David Rooney in Variety. Songs such as “Shoeless Joe From Hannibal, Mo.” and the classic “Whatever Lola Wants” are always a pleasure to hear. They’re given buoyancy by a 25-piece orchestra, masterfully conducted by Rob Berman. Jackson, in particular, delivers a couple of vocal gems with “Goodbye, Old Girl” and the wistful “A Man Doesn’t Know.” Damn Yankees may not quite be a classic, but it does have a certain “innocence and breezy charm” that makes it a diverting night at the theater.