Hayes, Krakowski bring "Damn Yankees" to NY stage

Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:36am EDT
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By Robert Osborne

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - There's an unwritten rule: Major stage shows just don't open in this town in the summer, which makes this coming New York weekend sound particularly inviting.

Opening on Saturday at the City Center is "Damn Yankees," starring Sean Hayes, Jane Krakowski, Cheyenne Jackson and Randy Graff and directed by John Rando. It's the second attraction in the "Encores!" summer series that began last year with Patti LuPone in "Gypsy."

The big change here is that unlike the usual "Encores" runs of only four or five days, productions in the "Summer Stars Encores!" series play longer -- three weeks in the case of "Yankees." It not only adds pizzazz to the summer showbiz season but also harks back to a mouth-watering era when summer at the City Center regularly meant a full slate of musical revivals and play retreads at bargain prices, often with exceptional casts, running the gamut from Jennifer Jones, Franchot Tone and Rip Torn in a revival of the angst-saturated "The Country Girl" to such do-re-mi's as "Brigadoon" and "The King and I."

Jose Ferrer once dominated the summer City Center season by starring in four different plays back-to-back, including "Cyrano de Bergerac" (Arlene Dahl was his Roxanne), "Charley's Aunt" and "The Shrike"; he directed several of them as well. That particular showoff sensibility inspired Betty Comden and Adolph Green to satirize Ferrer's indefatigability by writing a Ferrer-like theater whirlwind into their witty screenplay for the 1953 Fred Astaire-Cyd Charisse musical "The Band Wagon."

In that movie, Jack Buchanan played an eccentric, madly busy Broadway man-of-many-hats frenetically, ambitiously (and ill-advisedly) turning what was to be a little song-and-dance show into an epic-sized musical version of "Faust." All of it was based on Ferrer's wild summer at the City Center -- not long after he also staged four or five shows concurrently on Broadway (and starred in one as well).

As for "Yankees," the last time it was staged in a New York house was 1994-95, when it played for 718 performances in a revival at the Marquis with Victor Garber, Bebe Neuwirth and Jerrod Emick in the leads, after which Jerry Lewis, amid much publicity, took over Garber's role of the Devil.

Also ignoring that no-summer-openings credo: the new Hunter Bell-Jeff Bowen musical called "(title of show)," which begins previewing Saturday at the Lyceum.


<p>Star of the NBC show "30 Rock" Jane Krakowski arrives to attend the NBC Network upfronts in New York May 14, 2007. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>