The storyline has a touch of the humor ala “Bull Durham” style and the heart warming sensitivity that movie goers loved in “Field of Dreams. But what gives the show its unique stamp is that it is based on some real events that happened to the NY Yankees over its long history. This leads its audience to an appreciation of how these events led to the present time as well as how they allowed the mystique of the Yankee legend to continue over the years.
Presented at the Circle in the Square Theater, the audience feels like they are entering Yankee Stadium when they get seated. They first come down the escalator from the outside entrances into a very large, spacious lobby where photos of Yankee greats like DiMaggio and Mantle are posted on the walls. The performance area has seating in the round just like Yankee Stadium topped off by that upper level fence-like border. The action might not take place on a field, but an official-looking Yankee logo is displayed on the floor through the lighting system on the actual stage area.
The story opens in 1977 the day after then manager Billy Martin had thrown returning player Reggie Jackson out of the game. Yogi Berra was assistant manager at the time and he has asked Martin, Jackson, and Thurman Munson, the team’s catcher, to meet and discuss the problem. Yogi makes an immediate impression with his concern and love for this great team and his desire to make sure all is well. This continues throughout the show as it develops the story and its eventual ending. An audience cannot help but love a character like that and actor Peter Scolari who plays Berra is able to convey those feelings very well.
When Carmen, Yogi’s wife, is introduced, the audience is transported to the Berra home. Carmen is supportive, loving, and very encouraging to her husband. Actress Tracy Shayne allows that supportive nurturing to continue throughout her encounters with her husband and team members giving the audience a sense that the Yankee organization is more than just a sports team; rather it is a heritage that those associated with them feel is both a privilege and a responsibility to uphold.
As Yogi and Carmen settle in for an evening of rest, Yogi is beset with a dream that takes place in his dining room. The dream scene brings out some of the biggest legends of the Yankee dynasty including Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Elston Howard, Babe Ruth, and modern day legend Derek Jeter. It examines the stress that Yogi is under as the each of the ball players recalls things that happened in their time when things didn’t look so good for them. And yet, they survived and went on to continue in glory. The portrayal of Derek Jeter talking about times yet to come has a special significance in the play as he is seen as the hope of the team which he of course became.
The final scene takes place in the Yankee dressing room of the last game in the old Yankee stadium. Yogi and Carmen reminisce about how much the team has gone through and survived and how they will face new challenges in a new stadium. And once again, the ghosts of the legends of the past pop up in a reassuring way leaving no doubt that the legacy will continue on.
Devoted Yankee fans will love this show. Great care was taken to cast actors who had a decent resemblance to the character they were portraying. When the young Reggie Jackson first walks onstage, he looks so much like the real man that you will wonder if it is him somehow, someway! The same is true with the legend ghosts such as Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth. The references to the history of the Yankee franchise will delight and move these fans. And if you get a bit teary-eyed at the end, don’t say you were not warned!
If you’re not a Yankee fan but you do enjoy a good story which is well created with some amazing actors, this is well worth seeing. The sets and the lighting are wonderfully done with some nice little surprises throughout. The storyline is universal enough that all can enjoy it.
Learn more about “The Bronx Bombers” and getting tickets for this show at the website, http://bronxbombersplay.com. Tickets are reasonably priced right now. Circle in the Square is located on W. 50th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues.