BWW Reviews: A Wonderful Homage to American History with JACKIE & ME at the Denver Center!
The world premiere of Steven Dietz's JACKIE & ME is playing now until December 22nd at the Denver Center. This engaging, family-friendly show about a time traveling Little Leaguer plucks all the right heartstrings. Joey Stoshack jumps back in time to witness Jackie Robinson break the baseball color barrier for a school project. When Joey's skin color changes in the process, he learns how different the world can look and how important it is to have a hero.
"Imagine if history were something we could visit, anytime we wanted - wouldn't that be grand." Reminiscent of A Kid in King Arthur's Court, this new work by Steven Dietz combined both scifi and history in a fascinating delicate balance and is a wonderful homage to a great African-American icon in America's favorite pastime - baseball. This show, filled with warmth, innocence, drama, tenderness, humor and a complete sense of nostalgia brought a smile to everyone's face and a tear everyone's eyes. The narrative from Joey drew the audience in and this talented ensemble playing multiple roles kept the energy and this amazing story going from beginning to end. I also loved the interesting twist of having the white Joey experiencing racism first hand as a black boy in the 40's. Truly a wonderful script and exceptional show and I am sure that this will be one of the hot scripts to grace the stages of theatres everywhere.
Aaron M. Davidson in the lead role as Joey Stoshack had that boyish charm and the audience found him instantly relatable and intriguing. With ease he guided everyone along for this fantastic story and I have to say that this is one of Aaron's best performances to date. Rarely do I experience this onstage, but there was an electricity that pulsed through the audience as William Oliver Watkins entered and he portrayed the iconic legend of Jackie Robinson with dignity and a strength that was mesmerizing to watch. Also showing great strength and compassion was Kristen Adele as his wife, Rachel Robinson and I loved her passionate performance. Timothy McCracken and Diana Dresser as Joey's parents and brought such warmth and tenderness to the dynamic and I appreciated seeing them paired as parents again onstage. Michael Santo was truly a jack of all trades in this show, giving life and variation to each of his memorable characters. I especially enjoyed his performances as Coach, Flip, and Branch Rickey. The rest of the ensemble (consisting of the talented John. M. Jurcheck, Leigh Nichols Miller, Justin Walvoord, and Ryan Wuestewald) did a great job of bringing youth, humor and energy to this upbeat, yet dramatic show.
Director Stephen Weitz really took his time to appreciate this script and shed light on this sensitive issue and honor this important moment in American history. He was also instrumental in picking an amazing and diverse enemble that could take on so many roles and bring the story together with ease. Set Designer Lisa M. Orzolek really outdid herself with this amazing set. The floor alone, a collage of baseball cards, ticket stubs, and other memorabilia was a showstopper and could be a piece of art that belonged in a gallery. I also appreciated her other thoughtful choices of giving all the appearances of a baseball field (lights in the outfield, the scoreboard, those fun and inventive ads from the past and present) without making it cliche. Lighting designer Charles MacLeod and sound by Jason Ducat made their talents known from the very first sensory stimulating scene and I loved their effects during the time travel. Meghan Anderson Doyle could have easily boxed herself in with this baseball themed play, but she was able to show so much variety in both of the time periods and I adored her smaller costume pieces that made the 40's time period complete. I also have to give the Denver Center Company total props for driving the educational effort to expose students to the arts by adding 15 student matinees to this wonderful show.
See something a little different during this holiday season and fall in love with baseball and Jackie Robinsons strength all over again. Remember - this show is great for families! JACKIE & ME is inspiring audiences now through December 22nd on the Space Theatre of the Denver Center. For tickets or more information, contact the Denver Center Ticketing Office by calling 303-893-4100 or online at www.denvercenter.org.
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