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Suiting up for 'Damn Yankees'

Cast members Leah Duitsman (left) and Jarett Herder rehearse a scene from "Damn Yankees" Tuesday night in the Fine Arts theater at Minnesota West in Worthington. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Baseball is taking over Minnesota West -- and not just on the fields.

This weekend, a 21-member cast will present three performances of "Damn Yankees" at the Minnesota West Community and Technical College Fine Arts Theater.

After last year's musical, "Little Shop of Horrors," Instructor of Music and Theater Eric Parrish had planned on doing a play for the 2013 production.

"Usually I like to alternate between doing a play and a musical each year," he said.

But when nine male students asked Parrish which musical they were going to do this year, he decided he better start looking for a musical with a large male cast.

"I think you have to utilize nine men who want to sing," Parris said with a laugh. "I thought I'd offend some theater gods if I didn't use them."

Parrish said he knew of two musicals that require "tons of men" and quickly settled on "Damn Yankees."

"I love "Damn Yankees." It's one of my favorites -- probably one of my top 10, because you need eight men to sing in harmony," he said.

A modern retelling of a well-known Faust legend, "Damn Yankees" follows the story of the middle-aged Joe Boyd, a real estate agent and a fan of the struggling Washington Senators baseball team.

The devil appears to Boyd and, in exchange for his soul, promises to turn him into Joe Hardy, a young slugger for the Senators.

The performances will be filled with musical numbers and Parrish said that audience members should recognize at least two of the songs: "You've Gotta Have Heart" and "Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets."

"I know the older generation will recognize "You've Gotta Have Heart," and the other song was made famous by a Gap commercial about 10 years ago," he said.

The cast started rehearsing on the first day of the spring semester, Jan. 14. Will it be prepared for Friday's performance?

"Of course! You're always ready!" Parrish declared.

Jake Van Grouw plays two characters in the musical -- Joe Boyd, "the older incarnation of Joe Hardy," and Rocky, "the team captain of the Washington Senators" Van Grouw explained.

A sports fan himself, Van Grouw said he has enjoyed playing both roles and that they have been a perfect fit for him.

"(Boyd and Rocky) are both real sports fanatic characters and that's right up my alley," he said. "It's been easy to show that type of passion for a sport like the characters would."

The female protagonist Lola, played by Leah Duitsman, is described as "the best homewrecker on (the devil's) staff" in the musical. She is sent to seduce Boyd away from his wife and former life.

"She's very seductive but also a playful kind of girl," Duitsman said. "She allows me to go out of my comfort zone. It's a challenge, but it gives me the opportunity to try something new. I've never had a character like Lola before."

Both Duitsman and Van Grouw said they are in the musical to stretch their skills and pretend they are someone else.

"I just enjoy the opportunity to become someone you aren't," Van Grouw said.

Duitsman added she has loved watching the progress of the other cast members.

"It's been fun to watch people improve on stuff and see them in a different setting than they are usually in," she said. "A lot of the guys dance in the show, and I didn't know they could do that. It's cool to be impressed by them."

Parrish said he's been impressed by the cast, too.

"I would say this is one of the most talented groups of kids I've had in my six years here," he said. "It's by far the most talented and some of the best talent I've seen."

Parrish encouraged people to come to one of the performances -- not only for the plot, but to see some of Worthington's top talent perform impressive stunts and musical numbers.

"We're doing some stunts, special effects and choreography -- because the devil is in the show, of course there are special effects," he said. "It's going to be very entertaining."

"Damn Yankees" will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Fine Arts Theater on the Minnesota West Community and Technical College campus. Tickets will be available at the door 30 minutes before each performance.

Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.

Alyson Buschena
Alyson joined the Daily Globe newsroom staff after spending a year in Latin America. A native of Fulda and graduate of the University of Northwestern, she has a bachelor's degree in English with a dual concentration in Literature and Writing and a minor in Spanish. At the Daily Globe, Alyson covers the crime beat as well as Pipestone and Murray counties, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and cooking. More of Alyson's writing can be found at
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