Ambitious high school musical theater performers are always looking for ways to sharpen their understanding and improve their interpretation of the roles they play. Studying the script, watching the movie, listening to the soundtrack recording — these all help, but what about a visit from the original leading man? That’s what students in the San Marcos High School production of Damn Yankees got on March 16 when Tab Hunter, who played Joe Hardy in the 1958 film, showed up at their rehearsal. Director Riley Berris contacted Hunter, a longtime resident of Montecito, and he graciously accepted her invitation to visit the school, answer questions about Damn Yankees and his career, and even offer the cast some notes on their rehearsal performance of the ensemble number “Six Months Out of Every Year.” Students were clearly thrilled to meet and interact with Hunter, who remains as vibrant and acute in his insights as he was in his heyday.
Damn Yankees makes an exciting choice for the school’s spring musical. Bob Fosse’s work on the original production has inspired the show’s choreographer, Jessica Ballonoff, to new heights of imagination and creativity, and the cast is thoroughly enchanted with the story’s take on the passions ignited by professional sports and by its lively and humorous look at the battle between the sexes. Alex Marquis stars as Joe Hardy, the ball player who’s in league with the devil, and Lana Kanen will perform as Lola in the sensational role that made dancer Gwen Verdon a star. Berris has nothing but praise for the “amazing musical talent” of her cast and said that “every performer who has a solo is a great singer.” Damn Yankees opens on Thursday, May 4, and plays through Saturday, May 13, at San Marcos High School (4750 Hollister Ave.). For tickets and information, call 967-4581.