Music & Lyrics by Richard Adler & Jerry Ross: book by George Abbot & Douglass Wallop. Based on the novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglass Wallop
46th Street Theatre - 5 May 1955 (1019 perfs)
London Coliseum - 28 March, 1957
A twist on the Faustian legend sees the fanatical baseball fan, Joe Boyd, agreeing to sell his soul to the devil to save his favourite team, the Senators. When the time comes for Joe to pay the price of his success he manages to outwit the devil in this sure-fire musical. Hit songs include "Whatever Lola Wants" and "Heart".
Scene 1: Joe and Meg Boyd, a couple in their forties, are sitting in their comfortable living room in Chevy Chase, Maryland, on a warm evening. Meg is talking to Joe about the weather, but he's obsessed with a baseball game. She sings that for Six Months Out of Every Year," Joe is a great husband, but a lost cause during baseball season, when the Washington Senators take over his heart. The game ends; Joe is furious because his team lost. He wants them to lick those champion Damn Yankees just once. Meg gives up and goes to bed, announcing she has to play bridge the next day. As she leaves, Joe swings at an imaginary ball, and says he would sell his soul for one long-ball hitter for the Senators. Applegate, a mysterious stranger who seems to be a cross between a slick salesman and a song-and-dance man, suddenly appears from the shadows.
Applegate knows of Joe's youthful dreams to play baseball. The stranger does several feats of magic, and enables Joe to touch his toes for the first time in years. Two friends of Meg's, Sister and Doris, pass by, and accuse Joe of talking to himself. Joe realizes Applegate is invisible to everyone but him. Applegate reveals his identity as the Devil, and offers Joe a chance to save the Senators. If Joe agrees, he has to disappear from his present life and become a 22-year-old baseball star named Joe Hardy. A shrewd real-estate agent, Joe insists on an escape clause. Applegate is sure he can make Joe forget his wife, and agrees to let him have one chance to escape selling his soul forever on the 24th of September at midnight. Applegate goes off to call a taxi, and Joe leaves Meg a note as he sings "Goodbye, Old Girl." Although he doesn't tell her where he is going, he insists he loves her. Applegate transforms Joe Boyd into young Joe Hardy, and they leave for the baseball stadium.
Scenes 2 and 3: In the Washington Senators' dugout, the team's manager, Van Buren, is encouraging his players to keep trying to win against the Yankees. His players have talent but they also need one essential ingredient for success: "Heart." As they leave, reporter Gloria Thorpe enters to interview Van Buren. Applegate convinces Van Buren to let Joe try out for the team. Joe amazes the team with his skills, and is hired. While Applegate insists he found Joe in Hannibal, Missouri playing sandlot ball, reporter Gloria probes to learn more about him. In the meantime, Joe has to borrow a pair of shoes-his old shoes are too tight for him. Gloria decides to make him famous: she nicknames him "Shoeless Joe From Hannibal, Mo."
Scenes 4 and 5: Sister and Doris are outside the ballpark trying to see the new baseball sensation, Joe Hardy. Joe, who is now hitting .480, has led the team to second place in the American League. He is in team owner Welch's office complaining about the reporters' nonstop questions about his past. Welch leaves Applegate to reason with Joe. When Applegate scolds him for sneaking around his old home, Joe says he is lonely for Meg. Applegate says he is going to bring Joe a fascinating woman who will make him forget his wife, but Joe insists he isn't interested. He reminds Applegate that Applegate doesn't own his soul until September 24th. Left alone, Joe reflects on all he has given up to join the Senators ("A Man Doesn't Know"). Joe tells Gloria and a group of reporters that the Senators will have the pennant race sewn up by September 24th.
Scene 6: Applegate gets together with Lola, his female assistant. She reports success on her last assignment; she ruined a man's life and got him to jump out a window. Applegate, who actually wants the Yankees to win, has called her in to help with Joe. He fears Joe's escape clause may endanger his evil plot. He plans to let Senators' fans believe their team can win until the last minute. Then he will pull the rug out from under them by letting the team lose, causing the fans to have heart attacks, apoplexy, or commit suicide. He wants Lola to make Joe forget Meg. She assures him she is the woman for the job ("A Little Brains, A Little Talent").
Scene 7: Increasingly lonely and disturbed by Applegate's treachery, Joe returns to his house to see Meg (who does not recognize her much-altered husband), and convinces her to let him rent a room in her house. They share their feelings of loneliness, although she has no idea who he is (Reprise: "A Man Doesn't Know"). Sister and Doris recognize Joe as the famous ballplayer, Joe Hardy. Joe pretends to find money in his room, which Meg is sure her husband left for her. Applegate tries unsuccessfully to stop Joe from renting the room.
Scenes 8 and 9: In the locker room corridor, the players are enjoying their new success. Gloria presses Applegate for information about Joe's past. Applegate brings Lola to the locker room to begin working on Joe. When Joe rebuffs her initial advances, she explains, "Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets." Joe is impressed, but he remains true to Meg. When Joe heads for Meg's house, Applegate accuses Lola of using old-fashioned methods. He decides to cause a scandal for Meg because she has a single man living in her house.
Scenes 10 and 11: A group of teenagers and Sister are rehearsing their fan club presentations for a Senators Pep Rally. They reprise "Heart." At the rally, Lola, claiming she is on Joe's side, explains that Applegate made the team lose that afternoon as part of his plan to win Joe's soul. Gloria tells Applegate she has been to Missouri to research Joe's past; she has found out Joe is not really from Hannibal. Applegate suddenly insists that Joe is not Shifty McCoy. Gloria discovers Shifty McCoy was a ballplayer in Mexico who took bribes; she goes off to investigate. Lola performs "Who's Got the Pain" as a member of a group called the "I Love Joe Fan Club." The baseball commissioner calls Welch and accuses Joe of being Shifty McCoy. Joe insists the story isn't true and swears he will clear his name and lead the team to victory.
Scenes 1 and 2: In the locker room, the team members discuss their support for Joe and express their determination to live by the rules, dedicating themselves to "The Game," forgetting any thought of enjoying themselves until the pennant race is over. Joe has asked Meg to meet him outside the ballpark. She apologizes for asking him to give up his room. She says she misses her husband more than ever now that Joe Hardy is gone too. Joe assures her her husband will come back ("Near To You").
Scene 3: Applegate tells Lola that once he has Joe trapped after the 24th, he will make him throw the pennant game. Joe comes in and says he is going to exercise the escape clause on the 24th and Applegate pretends to agree. After Joe leaves, Applegate chastises Lola for feeling sorry for Joe and mourns "The Good Old Days" when evil was in fashion.
Scene 4: At the hearing at the Commissioner's office on September 24th, Applegate says he has a witness coming to prove Joe's innocence who will arrive at fifteen minutes past midnight. Joe says he can't wait. Meg, Sister and Doris appear, pretending to be from Hannibal, and claim they can identify Joe. They convince the postmaster from Hannibal, who has come to the hearing, that he remembers Joe too. At five minutes before midnight, Joe asks to leave the room. The commissioner won't let anyone leave. Meg is giving a speech to vindicate Joe as the clock strikes. Joe has surrendered his soul by default.
Scenes 5 and 6: Lola has knocked Applegate out with strong drinks. She tells Joe she was the ugliest woman in Providence, Rhode Island before she sold her soul to Applegate. Joe says he will find a way to win the pennant in spite of Applegate. Joe attempts to make the best of his new life and kisses Lola. They go off to spend the evening dancing together ("Two Lost Souls").
Scenes 7, 8, 9 and 10: Outside the ballpark, Doris and Sister join a crowd waiting for tickets to the big game. Applegate has awakened and is furious with Lola. He is on his way to the game and intends to make Joe throw the game, even if he has to change him back into Joe Boyd on the field. In the dugout, Lola and Van Buren are watching the game. Joe catches the ball that wins the game as Applegate turns him back into Joe Boyd. In the corridor outside the locker room, the team is looking for Joe, who has disappeared.
Scene 11: Joe Boyd has returned to Meg's house. He finds her crying on the sofa. She joyfully accepts his return. As they sit together reaffirming their feelings for each other (Reprise: "A Man Doesn't Know"), Applegate and Lola appear. Applegate tries to convince Joe to come back and lead the team to win the World Series. Joe ignores him, to Lola's delight.
Cast: 18 men, 6 women, chorus.
Lola - a temptress
Joe Hardy - a baseball player
Mr Applegate - a devil
Van Buren - a manager
Meg Boyd - Joe's wife
Rocky - a baseball player
Gloria - a reporter
Joe Boyd - a baseball fan
- Doris - A friend of Meg's. She is slightly quieter and more conservative than her sister, but still outspoken. An avid baseball fan very involved in the community. ( Female, 35-45 yrs old - Range: D4 - G5 )
- Gloria Thorpe - A probing reporter whose bottom-line is a good story for her paper. Fearless and biting. ( Female, 25-35 yrs old - Range: B3 - G5 )
- Joe Boyd - A middle-aged, overweight married man who is in love with baseball, especially the Senators.
( Male, 40-50 yrs old - Range: A3 - G5 )
- Joe Hardy - The 22-year-old, home run hitting alter ego of Joe Boyd. A good guy who loves that he is living out his dream, but deeply misses the life and love he left behind. ( Male, 20-30 yrs old - Range: A3 - G5 )
- Lola - The Devil's seductress assistant. Sexy and confident. Falls in love with Joe when her usual tricks don’t work on him. Though she’s done many bad things, she is a good person deep down inside. ( Female, 25-35 yrs old - Range: F3 - G5 )
- Meg Boyd - Joe's long-suffering, but loyal wife. She is lonely and misses her husband. Decides a little white lie is worth telling to save a good person. ( Female, 35-45 yrs old - Range: G3 - G5 )
- Mr. Applegate - The Devil in disguise as a slick salesman. A controlling, greedy smooth talker. ( Male, 40-50 yrs old - Range: A3 - G5 )
- Mr. Welch - The owner of the Senators. Believes in Joe and believes in his team. A peacekeeper between the press and the team. Protective of Joe and the boys. ( Male, 50-60 yrs old - Range: D4 - G5 )
- Rocky - A baseball player for the Washington Senators. Cocky, but a little bit dopey, too. He’s a guy’s guy. (
Male, 25-35 yrs old - Range: D4 - B5 )
- Sister - A friend of Meg's and Doris’s sister. Outspoken and brash, but caring. Very involved in community activities. ( Female, 35-45 yrs old - Range: D4 - G5 )
- Smokey - A catcher for the Washington Senators. Not the sharpest tool in the shed. Tries to be a tough guy like Rocky, but truly is not. ( Male, 25-35 yrs old - Range: C3 - G5 )
- Sohovik - A baseball player for the Washington Senators. The smartest and most level-headed of the players. Enjoys his side job of selling insurance. The unofficial leader of the team. (
Male, 25-35 yrs old -
Range: D4 - G5 )
- Van Buren - The luckless team manager. A sort of father-figure for the team, who proudly defends them. A bit of a loose cannon. ( Male, 50-60 yrs old - Range: D4 - A5 )
Ensemble - Ball Players; Baseball Fans
- The Game
- Goodbye, Old Girl
- A Little Brains - A Little Talent
- A Man Doesn't Know
- Near To You
- Shoeless Joe From Hannibal, Mo
- Six Months Out Of Every Year
- Those Were the Good Old Days
- Two Lost Souls
- Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)
- Who's Got the Pain?
- You've Gotta Have Heart
Reed I (Piccolo/flute/clarinet/alto sax), Reed II (piccolo/flute/clarinet/alto sax), Reed III (oboe/cor anglais/clarinet/tenor sax), Reed IV (clarinet/bas clarinet/tenor sax/bassoon), Reed V (Clarinet/bas clarinet [opt]/baritone sax/bassoon), horn, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, percussion, piano, guitar (acoustic/banjo), 6 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos, double bass.