Northwestern's 'boys of summer' musical banishes winter blues
While the Northwestern community battles the freezing cold and the winter doldrums, the high school stage was heating up with rehearsals for this year's musical, "Damn Yankees."
"Damn Yankees" is a classic story of temptation where the central character sells his soul to the devil in exchange for the chance to play for the Washington Senators against the New York Yankees.
Junior Zachary McDonald has one of the key roles in the play.
"Joe in his younger years is kind of dumb but he has heart," McDonald said of his character. "He's the innocent nice guy trying to do this best to make everyone happy. He knows the difference between right and wrong."
McDonald said acting is something he does "on the side."
"My dream is to be a self-sustaining musician," he explained. "I'm addicted to the bass guitar."
McDonald wants to actually construct guitars in the future but he's finding satisfaction on stage for now.
McDonald said the play "Footloose" is very well known but "Damn Yankees" is not.
"But overall it's a very good show," he said. "There's a lot of smart humor. There's a good mix of smart humor and general comedy."
Cast member Alessandro Consuelos also compared the two productions.
"'Damn Yankees' is even cleverer than 'Footloose,'" said Consuelos, who is working on an original work to premier May 22.
In addition to sharing the stage, McDonald and Consuelos collaborate on other musical ventures.
Freshman Ben Fry plays the older version of Joe, whom he described as "a die-hard fan" of the Senators, which have never had the opportunity to win.
"They're in seventh place," Fry said. "They go on to win the pennant but they weren't supposed to win."
"I feel baseball is probably not the best thing to sell your soul for."
Daneen Haas plays Joe's wife.
"[My character] is very similar to the characters I've played in the past but it has a new twist," Haas said.
Haas said the play has appeal for modern audiences.
"The message of being content with what you have is still relevant to our society even though some of the stuff is a little outdated," she said.
"I did not know the play," said Devon Devers, who plays Mr. Applegate.
The mild mannered Devers has to work up to playing the devil.
"I just channel all my frustrations and think of bad things," he said. "It's kind of an outlet for my anger.
"The fact I'm reminiscing about the good old days of evil makes the play funny."
The action in the play centers on Joe, who confronts temptation is the character of Lola, played by Megan Rebert, who admitted her role was quite challenging.
"You can't be shy for this part," she said. "You've got to go all out."
She suppressed a smile when she described part of her stage costume as "a leotard and fish net stockings.
"Damn Yankees" re-quires a large number of actors. Jacob Wiersch has two supporting roles.
"There are 11 baseball players and besides dancing with Lola, I'm a baseball player for the Washington Senators," said Wiersch. "I'm in a lot of the musical pieces. I do sing and dance.
"I had so much fun last year. 'Footloose' was my first real experience with a musical."
Stage manager Bailey Muhl said she "hadn't really heard much about [this play], but it's a lot of fun."
Muhl can't even begin to count the hours she's invested in "Damn Yankees."
"I'm here whenever they block scenes," she said. "Basically every time there's a rehearsal since I have to write down every move the actors make on the script so that if they forget, it's written down somewhere on record."
President of drama club Jaedon Muhl faced some challenges in preparing for his character.
He said "getting into the older man state, getting the voice down and the walk" required his attention so he turned to Bill Mutimer for help. "He told me to walk with a little shuffle" so he could play Benny Van Buren, coach of the Washington Senators.
"I don't just see Joe as a prodigy," said Muhl, describing the central character. "I just wanted him to do so well so we could beat the Yankees and go on to the World Series."
Many of the dance numbers were choreographed by Chelsea Montegomery Duban, a senior at Muhlenberg College.
"She actually helped out last year with 'Footloose' and decided this year to do all the choreography," explained Bailey Muhl.
Originally from Los Angeles, Duban has a double major in theater and dance.
"I've never done this play but it's a great play to do especially in a school where there are so many athletes participating," Duban said. "It's just rare. They're doing well."
Duban was quite taken with the student actors at Northwestern when she first worked on "Footloose."
"They're so great. I told my friends that Northwestern is like the 'Glee' school," she said. "Everyone is so nice. Everyone is so accepting."
The seniors admit they will miss the time they spent on the Northwestern stage.
"It was great being in the spotlight," said Devers.
Haas said acting has been "a creative outlet.
"This is the last hurrah," Haas said. "I'm going to miss all the people. We've been getting especially close."
Bailey Muhl will be separated from her twin, Jaedon, after they graduate in June.
"It will be different but it will be good for us to branch out and not depend on each other all the time," Bailey Muhl said.
Her brother agreed.
"It's going to be interesting," Jaedon Muhl said. "I'll finally be on my own, so halleluiah! But I will miss her so much.
He was also reflective about his last play at Northwestern.
"It's very bittersweet. I'm excited to end a chapter but very sad to go," Jaedon Muhl said. "Bill [Mutimer] has been there for me for the past four years. He's been my support system.
There will be five performances of "Damn Yankees": 7 p.m. March 5, 6 and 7 and 2 p.m. March 7 and 8.
Tickets may be purchased at northwesternlehigh.ticketleap.com/damnyankees/ or on the school district's website.