Theater Review - Bronx Bombers (NY)

If you are missing baseball season, please hurry to Circle in the Square on Broadway. There, the “Bronx Bombers” are holding forth with gusto and nostalgia. Written and Directed by Eric Simonson, the show is Conceived by Fran Kirmser, who worked with Simonson on two other sports-related shows: the football show, “Lombardi” and the basketball-themed “Magic/Bird,” both of which I found lacking.  This new show may not be the greatest play ever written, but for Yankees and baseball fans it is delicious. I loved every minute of it, particularly the second act in which a fantasy dinner brings famed players together from different eras. The cast was so good, each and everyone brought tears to my eyes. However, I am getting ahead of myself.

 

The first act, which  takes place in a hotel room in the Boston Sheraton in June of 1977, Peter Scolari's Yogi Berra is almost hysterical trying to get anxiety ridden manager Billy Martin, played authentically with nervous angst by Keith Nobbs, to make peace with egoist Reggie Jackson, the marvelous Francois Battiste; this actor also plays the elegant Elston Howard. Berra is a sentimentalist, believing that the Yankees should play with a team mentality not just be a group of celebrities.  He has a hard time of it, even with Thurman Munson's help. Munson, who died tragically in a plane crash early in his amazing career, is played stolidly by Bill Dawes, who is also the liquor-loving Mickey Mantle in the second act.

 

Now, some of our WMNR listeners and readers may not know that I am a fervent Yankees fan. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the players, and Munson was a modest man with a good sense of humor. The Yankees have preserved his uniform, number 15, hanging in his locker, moving it to the new stadium, next to Derek Jeter's locker.   It had been announced the day I saw the show that Jeter was retiring, so when Christopher Jackson made his appearance as the favorite son and Captain, the audience groaned with sadness and cheered all at the same time.

 

Looking for help, Berra and his beautiful wife, Carmen, depicted by Scolari's real-life wife, the adorable Tracy Shayne, host a dinner in their palatial New Jersey home.  The guests are C.J. Wilson's Babe Ruth, who displays a ravenous appetite; though he is somewhat disliked, the players acknowledge his star quality.  There's Lou Gehrig who is portrayed with such heart and soul by John Wernke, he takes your breath away. He even gives an impression of the ALS that destroyed his body and to which he succumbed. And then there is the uppity Joe Dimaggio, accurately depicted by Chris Henry Coffee, who chooses not to wear pinstripes (a monkey suit)  until the very end.

 

Yet, it is catcher Elston Howard's remarks that are the most important. Howard was the first African American player signed by the Yankees in 1955. He went on to have a splendid career-please look up his stats!  But, as he states, he kept a very quiet, low profile and did not get the recognition he so richly deserved. 

 

“Bronx Bombers” is fun, it is full of heart and I fully recommend it. At Circle in the Square. 

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