“Bronx Bombers” brings the Yankees to Broadway
Over the weekend, while the rest of New York was gearing up for a Super Bowl that didn’t quite live up to the hype, I had the pleasure of catching a matinee performance of the new “Bronx Bombers” play at the Circle in the Square theatre. I’m happy to say that I enjoyed the performance very much; moving the Bronx to Broadway is no easy task, but they’ve succeeded.
The play opens in Yogi Berra’s (Peter Scolari) suite at the Boston Sheraton in June 1977, the day after Billy Martin (Keith Nobbs) pulled Reggie Jackson (Francois Battiste) from a nationally televised game against the Red Sox. All of Boston seems to be talking about what happened in the Yankees’ dugout yesterday afternoon, and Yogi is nervously pacing, rattling off the greatest hits from the catalogue of Yogi-isms. He’s hoping he can broker peace between Reggie and Billy before George Steinbrenner gets involved; good luck with that.
Thurman Munson (Bill Dawes) is the first player to arrive in the suite, and he’s terrific – the captain is instantly recognizable, cracking wise about his aching knees and sour about his own issues with Reggie. Martin soon enters the room, rage flooding the room in a southern drawl. He’s shading his eyes with dark sunglasses and a cowboy hat, sneaking the occasional airline bottle into his coffee cup. Finally there’s Reggie, dressed head to toe in red polyester swiped from the ’70s. His strut instantly owns the room, fully in the heart of his “magnitude of me” years, months away from hitting the three homers that will cement his legacy in pinstripes.
You’ve become a fly on the wall in the history books. They’ve clearly done a lot of research to incorporate realistic portrayals of the players’ personalities, and if you’re familiar with those back stories, you’ll appreciate many little easter eggs.
The Yankees are falling apart and Yogi is terrified that Steinbrenner will fire Martin, he tells his wife, Carmen (Tracy Shayne). That soon leads Yogi – and us – into a wonderful dream sequence that is a highlight of the play. Forget time and space: imagine if you could have put all of the greatest Yankees legends in the same room. What would they say to each other? How would they interact?
Your imagination runs wild at that possibility, and clearly the writers had a lot of fun with it too.
An all-time lineup joins Yogi and Carmen for dinner — Babe Ruth (C.J. Wilson, playing the fur-coat clad Bambino larger than life), Lou Gehrig (John Wernke, channeling the Iron Horse’s strength and pain), Joe DiMaggio (an aloof, impeccably dressed Chris Henry Coffey), Mickey Mantle (Dawes, spot-on as the muscled-up, hard-living Mick), Elston Howard (Battiste) and even Derek Jeter (Christopher Jackson).
It’s great fun. I won’t spoil the rest for you. If those names mean anything to you, you’ll want to see it for yourself!
“Bronx Bombers” is now in previews at the Circle in the Square Theatre (West 50th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue). For ticket information, visit bronxbombersplay.com or call 212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250.