Beginning tonight, Thursday Nov. 19, and continuing through the weekend, the Newman Theatre and Music Departments will present the classic musical, “Damn Yankees.”
The show tells the story of Old Joe Boyd who sells his soul to the devil, in this case a man named Applegate, for the chance of a lifetime - to be the greatest baseball player in the Washington Senator’s history. Through making this deal, he transforms into a young and athletic Joe Hardy who begins playing for the Senators and seeing major success.
For Newman student Wesley Williams, it was not only a good opportunity to be in the musical, but also a fulfillment of two of his biggest dreams – to play Applegate and play the leading role in a musical.
“When I was in elementary school, they showed ‘Damn Yankees’ in our music class introducing us to music theater,” he said. “At the time I was really big into baseball, and I had this conception that musicals were this girly thing of dancing around and singing. This musical showed me that [musicals] can be about cool things like history and baseball.”
Williams said he’s always hoped he would get to perform in “Damn Yankees” one day. But getting the opportunity to play Applegate was like the icing on the cake.
“I was always fascinated with the idea of performing in this show,” Williams said. “I’ve always thought it’d be really cool to do ‘Damn Yankees’ and be Applegate because he’s the sly, lawyer-like character.”
Director of Theatre Mark Mannette announced the 2015 Newman Theatre season during the Art Day of Giving last year, and Williams said once he learned that Newman would be doing the show, he began perfecting his audition piece.
“When it was announced we were doing the show, I was really excited and was one of the few people who knew the musical inside and out,” he said. “So I worked over the summer to try and get the perfect audition together, and now here we are, a few weeks later, and the show Is about to open up and I’m super excited about this role.”
Williams, who plans to attend law school post-graduation and get connected in Kansas politics, said that he’s had fun with the role because he’s had the opportunity to take a "lawyerly" approach to it.
“It’s kind of a fruition of being able to complete the lead in a musical, which I haven’t done so far, and combining it with a character I’ve always wanted to play and an approach that benefits me.“
With graduation approaching in May, Williams said he will miss Newman Theatre and Music and really enjoyed his time.
“You really get to know a lot of good people,” he said. “At first it’s fierce competition, but then you become like family and close friends with them. Newman Theatre really broke me out of my shell. I was nervous of getting out and throwing myself in front of other people but theatre has really taught me how to express myself. I’ve built friendships that I feel are going to last past my time in Newman. I’ll be remembering my experiences no matter where I go.”
"Damn Yankees" opens Thursday at 8 p.m., and will also be performed at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday in the Performance Hall inside the De Mattias Fine Arts Center. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and military, $5 for non-Newman students and Newman faculty, and free to all Newman students.