The New York Yankees Through the Eyes Of Yogi Berra: Unveiled On Broadway
Sequestered in midtown Manhattan's Circle in the Square Theater, sits a massive time travel machine, unbeknownst to many above ground. More shocking than that, it's patriarchal New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra that operates it. Okay, it's really actor Peter Scolari portraying Berra in the new American play Bronx Bombers, but the show is so nostalgic that it might as well be like stepping back in time. In fact, this show is dripping in reminiscence to the point where audience members will need the 15-minute intermission to dry off just so they can absorb the second half of the show. However, leading fans down memory lane is only one side of the coin, as co-producers Fran Kirmser and Tony Ponturo explain their ulterior motive.
"Bronx Bombers is the third in a sports series for the stage, conceived by creative producer [Fran] Kirmser," Ponturo clarified.
"In an effort to shed some context on the motivation behind the series and the timing of this last play, Ponturo affirmed, "it's to tell stories of inspiration through the theater in response and reaction to the 2008 financial trash. Our first show, Lombardi, was about great leadership. The second production, Magic/Bird, was about rivalry and friendship. Bronx Bombers looks at what makes a great team."
People endlessly search for the meaning of what makes a great team, but it turns out that the secret has been carefully constructed in a space beneath 50th Street, wedged in between Broadway and Eight Avenue, just one escalator ride down.
Ticketholders' decent into a man cave of a lobby are greeted by a sizeable photo—too big to miss—of Mickey Mantle, as if to serve as a warm welcome to time travelers. It is here that generations of fans mingle among legends of their time, or gaze upon a period that they've only heard of or read about. The tangible melting pot of memorabilia involving the Mick, Elston Howard, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Thurman Munson, Billy Martin, Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter and Yogi, can't be ignored.
For the overwhelmed, there's a convenient row of the uncomfortable, but familiar seats from the old Yankee Stadium along the wall of the lobby, just adjacent to the theater doors.
However, the show's reception area is just the appetizer.
Writer and Director, Eric Simonson, somersaults audiences right into June 19, 1977—recreating a meeting inside a Sheraton Hotel room between Berra, Munson, Martin and Jackson. This of course was the day after Martin famously pulled Jackson from the game—on National TV—against the rival Boston Red Sox for "loafing" after a ball that was hit in his direction in right field.
Scolari's interpretation of Berra's quirky but effective insight, as well as his delivery of infamous Yogi-isms, is evident early and throughtout. The actor talked about what went into learning how to play the beloved catcher-turned-coach.
"There was lots of reading and fortunately lots of video that I could watch of Yogi, not just on the field but in all the commercials and interviews he has done. We also sat and watched part of a playoff game together this [past] fall, and that interaction is priceless."
The real experience for spectators starts to build later in the show when Yogi's wife Carmen—played by Scolari's real wife Tracy Shayne—pleads with Berra to not take over as manager if George Steinbrenner decides to fire Billy in the aftermath of what happened in Boston.
Embracing the anything goes approach; the next sequence of events occur in an unforgettable dining room setting that could only be scripted. "The scene is played out as a dream to allow for all of the greats to be in one room and to express how individuals come together to make a great team," Kirmser said.
Following this Ruthian scene, fast forward to Berra and Jeter sharing in a moment in the bowels of the old Stadium, and tie a bow on this latest edition of Yankees Tales.
The play officially opens on February 6, and as Yogi once said, "if you see a fork in the road, take it."
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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