One of San Joaquin County’s hidden treasures is just 20 miles from Lodi.
Community Theatre of Linden has offered up hit comedies like Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park” and Kander and Ebb’s “And the World Goes ‘Round.”
Now, they’re presenting the Broadway classic “Damn Yankees” — and teaming up with Yankees outfielder and Linden native Aaron Judge to raise funds for his All Rise Foundation.
“Damn Yankees” shares the story of the beleaguered Washington Senators baseball team.
“There’s a fellow, Joe Boyd, who’s a die-hard Washington Senators fan. Unfortunately, they always lose to the Yankees,” said Mike Moon, who plays Mr. Applegate.
The mysterious Mr. Applegate — the Devil — offers Boyd a deal: He can become the Senators’ talented new slugger and lead them to victory. Boyd agrees, as long as there’s an escape clause.
“He loves his wife and doesn’t really want to leave her,” Moon said.
But Mr. Applegate isn’t giving up without a fight. He brings in Lola, one of his best temptresses, to try and corrupt Boyd. Lola traded her soul for beauty and a long life, and to keep it she does Mr. Applegate’s bidding.
“I was the ugliest woman in Providence, Rhode Island, and I’m literally 172 years old,” said Melissa Esau, Lola’s actress.
The story unfolds from there — Boyd trying to help his team while Mr. Applegate and Lola work to undermine his determination to return home.
For Esau and Moon, it’s been a homecoming of sorts. They’re reprising roles that they performed at Stockton Civic Theatre several years ago.
“We’re very comfortable with each other, and we just sort of fell back into it really easily,” Esau said.
They’ve performed together in a number of plays since then.
“Melissa and I have been on stage together numerous times, so we already have a great rapport,” Moon said.
The actors are excited to perform in Linden, which has become something of the local theater world’s best kept secret.
“Everybody thinks Linden is so far away, but it really isn’t,” said Judy Williamson, who is co-directing “Damn Yankees” with Kimberly Romberger. (Gary Fritzen is the musical director, and Esther Henderson is assisting with choreography.)
And the theater is really nice, Esau added.
“The stage is really big, the acoustics are very big,” she said.
The actors in Community Theatre of Linden come from all over, and many of them have experience acting in Stockton Civic Theatre shows and other local productions.
The cast gets along really well, Esau said.
“It’s really an A-list cast,” Moon said.
When the troupe first considered putting on the musical, Judge was hosting a free baseball camp in Linden as part of the All Rise Foundation’s efforts.
So CTL reached out and asked if he’d be interested in working with them.
“We said it would be a great cooperative venture,” Williamson said.
Judge won’t be appearing at the show, but he did film a message that will be shown to the audience each night before the show begins. A portion of CTL’s proceeds will go to the All Rise Foundation, a youth charity that encourages children to follow their dreams and seeks to give them some of the tools they need to do that.
Williamson hopes people will make the short drive out to Linden to support the show as well as All Rise.
“You just can’t have a society without the arts,” she said.