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THEATRE With David Benedict

Damn Yankees is at the Adelphi Theatre, London WC2 (0171-344 0055) 29 May to 16 Aug

I habitually arrive at the theatre in a veritable frenzy of unquenchable enthusiasm and gladsome expectation (with an astrakhan coat and silver topped cane... well, perhaps not). There are occasions when disappointment sets in the moment the curtain rises, but despite the accusations of cynicism, envy and petty mindedness, I am an optimistic theatre critic. (If you don't like theatre, there are better things to do in darkened rooms every night of your life than watch plays.)

But as the philosopher Dusty Springfield said, "Being good isn't always easy/No matter how hard I try" and I have a blind spot. Faust. I herewith tender my apologies to Messers Marlowe and Goethe but frankly, my dears, I don't give a damn. I have sat dutifully through versions dreadful and decent of the devil drama, but it has almost never moved, amazed or even amused me.

In truth, I haven't actually heard, much less seen the Faust operas by Lutz, Barbier, Hanke, Walter, Spohr, Saint-Lubin, Reutter, Bentzon, Muller, Engelmann or Brugermann's tetralogy on the subject. David Pountney produced a remarkable staging of Busoni's version at ENO which almost persuaded me that I liked the story. Perhaps it's to do with the inevitability of the plot. Part of me just sighs and wishes we could cut to the chase: Faust can get what's coming to him and we can all go home.

The shining exception is the splendid, joyous Damn Yankees. The movie is great, but the stage musical is better. I saw this production on Broadway a couple of years ago and if this version, starring Jerry Lewis, is anything like as good, you're in for a treat. Ignore the fact that it's about baseball (about which we Brits know nothing and care less) and pitch up for some good old-fashioned fun. Go on, be a devil.


Sondheim fans should drop everything this Sunday for a concert performance of his 1964 show Anyone Can Whistle. The actress Stephanie Beecham will narrate the extraordinary book, after which you'll no doubt understand why this outstanding score only ran for nine performances.

Savoy Theatre, Maiden Lane, London WC2 (0171-836 8888)