‘Damn Yankees’ Remake Gets Extra Innings

Pictured: Sean Hayes and Jane Krakowski in Damn Yankees on Broadway

Like a ballgame going into extra innings where the losing team gets new life with a bottom of the ninth home run to tie the game, a remake is on the horizon for the musical Damn Yankees.

The musical opened on Broadway in 1955 starring Gwen Verdon as Lola the sexy handmaid of the Devil played by Ray Walston. Damn Yankees is Faust meets Major League Baseball. One man’s desire to see the dominating New York Yankees fall pushes him to make a deal with the Devil. He sells his soul so he can become Joe Hardy, a home run hitting slugger who can drive the Washington Senators to defeat those Damn Yankees.

The film version starring Verdon, Walston and Tab Hunter was released in 1958.  The new version has cast Jim Carrey as the Devil and Jake Gyllenhaal as Joe Hardy. Todd Graff will direct and is adding the issue of steroid use to the mix. He will also be dumping a lot of the musical elements of the original.

“If a character like Joe Hardy — who’s the character in ‘Damn Yankees’ — sprung out of nowhere and was hitting 70 home runs in a season, who would not think immediately ‘steroids’?” Graff told MTV.

I have to take issue with Graff’s decision to dump most of the songs and score. “Damn Yankees” is truly a classic with music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, who tragically died at age twenty nine. Adler and Ross also wrote another classic “The Pajama Game”.   Graff describes his vision as “Jerry Maguire with songs” and apparently mostly new songs which are really very unlikely to be able to live up to the original score. I think a remake is a great idea, but why not find a new way to present the original score?

It looks like The Chicago Cubs will be the new victims of the piece since it’s being updated and the Senators are long gone. No shock that Graff would want to take on Damn Yankees since he describes himself as New York Mets fan who made an unusual pitch to producers.  “I said, ‘Listen, there may be writer/directors out there who know more about musicals … there may be writer/directors out there who know more about baseball, but I guarantee you, there is no writer/director out there that knows more about musicals and more about baseball and hates the Yankees as much as I do.’ ”

Anyone looking forward to a remake of Damn Yankees? Is there any evidence that Jim Carrey and Jake Gyllenhaal can really sing? Does it matter if they can? And who do you think should be cast as the lost soul vixen Lola?

Robin Ruinsky has been a writer since penning her autobiography in fourth grade. Along the way she's studied theater at Syracuse University, worked with Woody Allen starring most of the time on the cutting room floor. A segue into the punk rock scene followed but writing was always the main focus. She writes for various crafty, artsy magazines about people who make craftsy, artsy collectible things. But her first love is writing fiction and film criticism which some people think are the same thing.

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