FAIRFIELD — Missouri Street Theatre Artistic Director Dae Spering promises that this time, her award-winning local theatrical company will in fact stage “Damn Yankees.”
“We’ve had it on our calendar every season since we started, but the same thing keeps happening,” Spering said. “We were on schedule to do ‘Damn Yankees,’ and I got the email that ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ was available, so we grabbed it and moved ‘Damn Yankees’ back. Then we put it on the schedule, and I got an email that ‘Avenue Q’ was available, so it was thrown on the backburner again.”
The show actually was moved once more because it was slated to play later this year, but Spering acquired the rights to the California premiere of “Les Miserables” and switched the spots.
“Damn Yankees” retells the Faust deal-with-the-devil story, but modernizes it, well, to the 1950s. It is about a fan of the Washington Senators baseball team and what lengths he goes to to beat the titular team. The show won the Tony for Best Musical in 1956.
Despite its shuffling and reshuffling on the calendar, “Damn Yankees” has a special place in Spering’s heart. She referred to it as “the epitome of American musical theater.”
“I’ve done musical theater my whole life and been a huge Major League Baseball fan my whole life. When I moved to New York to go to college in 1992, the subway went right from our dorm to Yankee Stadium,” Spering said. “I saw Doc Gooden’s no-hitter, I saw the bench-clearing Yankees-Orioles game – I’ve seen it all. The year I finished college was Derek Jeter’s rookie year, so it was a super-exciting time to be a Yankees fan.”
Spering is now super-excited about her cast for the upcoming show, which features new faces to her downtown Fairfield-based troupe.
“I’ve never worked with Dan Monez before, who is our old Joe. I’ve never worked with Maureen Williams before, who is our Meg, and I’ve never worked with Danielle Debow before, who is our Lola,” Spering said. “Of course, I knew them from around, but I had never worked with them. A lot of people came to the big audition we had for ‘Les Miz’ and were offered parts in ‘Damn Yankees.’ It’s a very strong cast.”
While Monez remembers being impressed seeing his sister perform in a play at the now-demolished Armijo Auditorium when he was around 8 or 9 in the late 1950s, he didn’t start performing until decades later.
“I didn’t do any theater in high school or college,” Monez said. “I was in law enforcement for 34 years – half of it in Solano County and half of it in Napa County. I retired as police chief of Napa in 2004.”
Monez’s first role was as a fill-in that became a speaking part when a lead character took ill. Monez was himself infected – with the acting bug. He was 42 and while not everyone warmed to the idea of the police chief acting, Monez saw it as a positive influence as it taught him a lot about himself. He has now performed in more than 40 productions and began doing professional theater after he retired.
Monez’s surname is probably familiar to local longtimers, as his uncle ran Chet Monez Ford for many years on North Texas Street and his father had a Suisun Valley trucking company. He is a third-generation Fairfielder, yet “Damn Yankees” is the first show he will do in his hometown. He has been impressed with both MST and the facility they perform in.
“I have been impressed by how sensitive they are to the actor’s time in the rehearsal process – very professional,” Monez said. “I think Fairfield has an absolute jewel in the Downtown Theatre. I’m happy that Fairfield used very progressive thinking in building a performing arts center when redevelopment funds were available to them – kudos for that. I’m also happy for and proud of the folks who took it over and are running it.”
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org.