Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Broadway Theater Review: Bronx Bombers

Baseball Drama Gets Hung Up in Double Play
By Lauren Yarger
The House That Ruth Built gets a theatrical exploration in playwright and Director Eric Simonson's Broadway play The Bronx Bombers.

Baseball legends abound in this story conceived by Frank Kirmser and produced by the same team that brought us the sports-themed Broadway productions of Lombardi and Magic/Bird. Making appearances are Babe Ruth (C.J. Wilson), Lou Gehrig (John Wernke), Joe DiMaggio (Chris Henry Coffey), Elston Howard (Francois Battiste), Reggie Jackson (also Battiste), Thurmon Munson (Bill Dawes), Mickey Mantel (also Dawes) and even Derek Jeter (Christopher Jackson).

The story gets caught in a double play, however, with dream-like sequences with the legends tagging out a different plot path about what it means to be a New York Yankee and live up to the club's image.

Told through the eyes of Yogi Berra (a very good Peter Scolari), the first act focuses on a 1977 fight between manager Billie Martin (Keith Nobbs) and Jackson. Berra solicits the help of Munson to try to make peace, but later he shares a secret with his supportive wife, Carmen (Tracy Shane): team owner George Steinbrenner just might offer Martin's job to him.

Suddenly the Babe comes to offer Yogi some advice and the other legends arrive for an oldtimers banquet. Somewhere between a dream and "Field of Dreams," the action, made misty with a fog effect, is sometimes difficult to follow. Also throwing some curves are a comedic side plot about the delivery of lots of potatoes and a bunch of those Yogiisms for which the Hall of Famer, who will be 89 this May, is famous http://www.yogi-berra.com/).

Simonson's script should have received more development before bringing it to a Broadway stage and his direction can be tedious at times (how many times can the actors move to a cart and grab a beverage?) The casting is good, though, with many of the actors looking and sounding like the players they're pinchitting for on stage. Scolari, in particular, creates a consummate Berra, complete with facial expressions, mannerisms, stride and ears that stick out. He perfects his craft by physically aging the character.

If you're not a Yankee's fan -- and an older one who remembers the pre-Jeter players and the events being discussed to boot -- it's unlikely you'll feel engaged despite the team logo on the floor or the white trim over the stadium-like seating arrangement at Circle in the Square Theatre (set design by Beowulf Boritt). The show runs about two hours and 10 minutes with an intermission.

Bronx Bombers are at bat until March 2 at Circle in the Square Theatre, 235 W. 50th St., NYC. http://www.bronxbombersplay.com/.

Christians might also like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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