American musical comedy Damn Yankees is taking the stage from June 16–28 at the Ordway. The plot follows an aging real estate agent who sells his soul to the devil for a chance to play with the Washington Senators baseball team. In the role of Coach Van Buren is Broadway veteran Allen Fitzpatrick—the show is sure to be a home run for musical and baseball fans alike. For tickets, go to the Ordway’s website.
- What drew your interest to this show?
Well, to be honest, actors don’t seek out particular shows. Ninety-nine percent of actors accept whatever shows they’re offered, and then keep their fingers crossed that they will like the experience of the particular show. I accepted this show for many reasons. I wanted to work with director James Rocco, I liked the idea of again spending a few early summer weeks in St. Paul, and since I’d played the Coach several times before, I knew it would be a pleasant and stress-free assignment. I also think it’s a terrific show that is fun to do, and always an audience-pleaser.
- What is it like playing Coach Van Buren? Are you two similar or drastically different?
He and I are completely different personalities. He’s a brusque, tough-as-nails guy with a heart of gold. A barking, military kind of guy, but a guy who loves his team 100 percent, and loves all his players like a father. He’s spent his entire life devoted to baseball and to the Washington Senators (he used to play for the Senators himself). As an actor, it’s always great fun to inhabit a character who is completely different from myself.
- You were able to play the same role on Broadway! How did the two experiences differ?
On Broadway I played three different roles over the course of my contract with the show, and that was my first experience playing the Coach. (I played Joe Hardy in 1980, and that’s when I first became familiar with the show.) The Coach was the most fun of my three roles there. It’s always very exciting to perform on Broadway, especially in a big hit show that is always sold out! It was an amazing experience to play scenes with Jerry Lewis every night—pretty unforgettable. There’s nothing quite like Broadway. Working at the Ordway is obviously a somewhat different experience, but it’s still fun to do the show. And the Ordway is such a beautiful theater in which to perform.
- With 40 years of acting experience under your belt, which show or role has been your favorite?
It’s hard to really say, but I think I will look back on the two productions of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, in which I starred as Sweeney, as my favorite. These were opportunities to work on one of the greatest musicals ever written. Sweeney was my ‘signature’ role, and I enjoyed quite a triumph playing it. It will always occupy a huge spot in my heart—truly an unforgettable experience.
- If you were a baseball player in real life, what position and team would you play for?
Well, I don’t think there are any professional baseball players remotely close to my age! But, since this is a fantasy, I think I would like to be a pitcher for either the Seattle Mariners or the Boston Red Sox (I live in Seattle, but was born in Boston). But, of course, if the Twins offered me a position, I’d take it in a second!