Circle in the Square Theatre, (2/06/2014 - 3/02/2014)

First Preview: Jan 10, 2014
Opening Date: Feb 06, 2014
Closing Date: Mar 02, 2014
Total Previews: 31
Total Performances: 29

Category: Play, Original, Broadway
Setting: A hotel room in the Boston Sheraton in June 1977; the Berra bedroom; the Yankees locker room in September 2008; and in a dining room somewhere in between.

Opening Night Production Staff

Theatre Owned / Operated by Circle in the Square (under the direction of Theodore Mann and Paul Libin; Susan Frankel, General Manager)

Produced by Fran Kirmser, Tony Ponturo, Quinvita and Primary Stages; Produced in association with The New York Yankees and Major League Baseball Properties

Written by Eric Simonson; Conceived by Fran Kirmser; Original Music: Lindsay Jones

Directed by Eric Simonson; Assistant Director: Logan Reed

Scenic Design by Beowulf Boritt; Costume Design by David C. Woolard; Lighting Design by Jason Lyons; Sound Design by Lindsay Jones; Hair and Wig Design by Paul Huntley; Assistant Scenic Design: Alexis Distler and Jason Lajka; Assistant Costume Design: Kim Krumm Sorenson; Assistant Lighting Design: Ryan O'Gara and Grant Wilcoxen

General Manager: Richards / Climan, Inc.; Company Manager: James Viggiano

Production Manager: Aurora Productions; Production Stage Manager: Adam John Hunter; Stage Manager: Kelly Glasow

Casting: Stephanie Klapper; Press Representative: Polk & Co.; Advertising: SPOTCo, Inc.; Marketing: SPOTCo, Inc.; Marketing Coordinator: Marissa Stoll; Interactive Marketing: Situation Interactive; Dialect Coach: Jane Fujita; Fight direction by Joseph Travers; Photographer: Joan Marcus

Opening Night Cast

Peter ScolariYogi Berra
Francois BattisteReggie Jackson
Elston Howard
Chris Henry CoffeyJoe DiMaggio
Bill DawesMickey Mantle
Thurman Munson
Christopher JacksonDerek Jeter
Bobby Sturges
Keith NobbsBilly Martin
Tracy ShayneCarmen Berra
John WernkeLou Gehrig
C. J. WilsonBabe Ruth

Understudies: Brandon Dahlquist (Billy Martin, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Mark, Mickey Mantle, Thurman Munson), Clark Jackson (Bobby Sturges, Derek Jeter, Elston Howard, Reggie Jackson), Karyn Quackenbush (Carmen Berra) and Jeff Still (Babe Ruth, Billy Martin, Mark, Yogi Berra)


AP: "'Bronx Bombers' adoringly looks at Yanks"

The first sign a major knuckleball is coming in the baseball play “Bronx Bombers” is when the smoke machines crank up.

Until then, Eric Simonson’s script is an unremarkable behind-the-scenes look at a moment in 1977 when the New York Yankees were in crisis. Their star player, Reggie Jackson, was brawling with the team’s manager, Billy Martin, and clubhouse morale was at a low point.

Then the central figure in this drama — Yogi Berra, trying to keep the team together as a coach — starts hearing ghosts in his bedroom and the swirling smoke kicks in. The Babe — Babe Ruth, naturally — then suddenly stands there in his pinstripes with a bat. Of course. Who doesn’t have this exact same dream?

The next scene, which opens Act 2, is perhaps one of the most improbable and downright silly moments to be put onstage this season: A fancy dinner with some Yankee greats from the past and present. Babe Ruth! Mickey Mantle! Lou Gehrig! Joe DiMaggio! Derek Jeter? Wait, what?

That snapping sound you hear is the sudden end of Simonson’s two-and-a-half plays grounded in realism and his entry into the surreal. A play that was becoming the Yogi Berra story — featuring a super Peter Scolari wringing every emotion from the script heroically — has now turned into the daydreams of an 11-year-old.

If you’ve ever wanted to know what Mantle would tell Gehrig, this is the play for you. (For the record, it’s “pleasure to meet you, sir. I, um, I came up just after you.”) The Yankee immortals all trade war stories, salary details, free agency tales and grouse over the increasingly invasive media. They eat potatoes. They continue to wear their uniforms, cleats and all.

They also say things like “baseball’s the best damn thing that ever happened to this country” and reveal this secret for their success: “A Yankee’s got to be a Yankee.” Among these athletic giants is Yogi’s wife, Carmen, (an underused Tracy Shayne), likely wondering why she got cast in this dream — and this play.

Eventually, DiMaggio threatens to leave — prompting the almost required “Joe, don’t go!” — and Gehrig physically weakens before our eyes, a crass reminder of the disease that will kill him. The madness ends with him recreating the weakened stance he held while bidding farewell to the Yankees. It’s a maudlin turn for something that’s already half-baked.

“Bronx Bombers,” which opened Thursday at the Circle in the Square Theater, is the third sports-related play to make it to Broadway from producing team Fran Kirmser and Tony Ponturo, following “Lombardi,” about football icon Vince Lombardi, and “Magic/Bird,” about the friendship between basketball legends Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird.

Simonson, who wrote all three, this time also directs “Bronx Bombers,” and he does so with such reverence to the baseball franchise that it veers into fairy tale. Major League Baseball and the New York Yankees put money in the show, and it shows. The play played off-Broadway last year and has been tweaked since then, but not enough to make it more than Yankee advertising.

Ruth (played by C.J. Wilson like a sort of W.C. Fields) is brash and ready to party; Mantle (Bill Dawes, who also plays Thurman Munson) is a jokey hothead; DiMaggio (Chris Henry Coffey) is squinty and haughty; Elston Howard is polite but frustrated (a good Francois Battiste, who also earlier plays a terrific Jackson); and Gherig (John Wernke) who seems a bit like a confused hick (”What’s TV?” he asks at one point, since he died in 1941. In another scene he blurts out: “World War II?” Wait until he finds out about the Red Sox’s recent resurgence.)

After the head-scratching dinner scene, the play fast-forwards to the Yankee locker room in 2008 on the last game in the old Yankee Stadium and resumes its low-key, grounded-in-reality air. Yogi’s back again and so is Jeter (Christopher Jackson, this time apparently not an apparition.)

There’s a lot of hat-tipping, swelling moments and it seems like we in the audience should get teary and sentimental. “It’s about the people, not the building,” Berra says sagely. But it’s also about the drama, and, in this case, the play strikes out looking.


New York Daily News: "Bronx Bombers"

After finishing in last place Off-Broadway, “Bronx Bombers” spent the off-season retooling for Broadway’s big league.

All the rigorous exercise — along with some canny tweaks — over the past three months has paid off.

The central tension — a perennial Yankee saga about team tradition versus personal stardom — is better illuminated. The formerly bipolar halves of the show — part drama, part dream sequence — now fit together better.

And the casting of the always-appealing Peter Scolari (“Bosom Buddies” and “Lucky Guy”) as the lovable, malaprop-prone Yogi Berra adds a reliable bat to the lineup.

It’s too bad that writer and director Eric Simonson’s play is still choked by sentiment right out of Lou Gehrig’s “I consider myself (myself, myself ...)” speech.

Simonson has carved a mini-empire out of sports shows: “Lombardi” was about football and leadership. “Magic/Bird” focused on basketball and competition. Now teamwork is the name of the game.

The action leads off in 1977 in a Boston hotel suite. It’s the morning after volatile Yankees manager Billy Martin (Keith Nobbs) pulled narcissistic superstar Reggie Jackson (Francois Battiste) out of a game.

Berra has brought together the foes, plus Yankees captain Thurman Munson (Bill Dawes), to stop throwing beanballs at each other for the ballclub’s sake. But Jackson has a different notion of the Pride of the Yankees than Martin.

“I didn’t come here to melt into someone else’s idea of a team,” says the walking candy bar. “I came here to be Reggie Jackson.”

Juicy stuff. Add the crisp and colorful performances, and the scene crackles — as it did before.

What’s new about the act is the expanded presence of Babe Ruth (C.J. Wilson). The bigger-than-life Sultan of Swat bridges the past and the present, the real and the mythic as the show becomes a fantasy.

“The times, they do change, you know,” booms Babe in a voice amplified for otherworldly impact. “And then again they don’t.” In other words, the Yankees have always faced scrapes. And always endured.

Unfortunately, the promising provocative talk of the opening innings gets benched for mushier hero worship and backward glances at glory days.

The play sends itself to the showers in a scene featuring Yogi and his wife Carmen (Tracy Shayne, Scolari’s real-life wife) hosting a banquet for pinstripe legends. The guest list includes Derek Jeter (Christopher Jackson), Mickey Mantle (Dawes), Joe DiMaggio (Chris Henry Coffey), Elston Howard (Battiste), Gehrig (John Wernke) and Ruth.

Devout Yankee fans may get misty at the sight of the beloved Iron Horse, bedeviled by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, meeting today’s Mr. Nice Guy Derek Jeter.

But the scene is more sugary than the Cracker Jack served in the upper deck. And manipulative music seemingly recruited from “The Natural” seeks to tug heartstrings.

When all is said and done, “Bronx Bombers” is too feel-good and fawning for its own good.

New York Daily News

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