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Five Broadway Shows With a Sporting Twist show poster

Five Broadway Shows With a Sporting Twist at Merkin Hall

Dates: (6/17/2024 )

Theatre:

Merkin Hall

Siegel Entertainment

129 W 67th St, New York, NY 10023
New York,NY 10023

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Broadway is world-famous for its dazzling performances and captivating stories that transport audiences into different worlds. Many Broadway productions focus on the themes of fantasy, history, and love, but some delve into the sporting world. Such sporting Broadway shows celebrate the drama of athletics and sports and often have a narrative of triumphing over adversity through sheer determination and perseverance. This article will give you a glimpse at some Broadway shows that have brought mainstream sports to the theatre.

Damn Yankees (1955)

The New York Yankees are America's most famous sports team, if not the most famous team worldwide, so it makes perfect sense for them to feature on Broadway. "Damn Yankees" debuted in 1955, long before the top betting sites online featured the Yankees, and is based on the Douglass Wallop novel "The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant."

The show revolves around Joe Boyd, a middle-aged baseball fan who makes a deal with the devil to transform into a young baseball prodigy called Joe Hardy. Boyd wants to help his beloved Washington Senators beat the dominant New York Yankees. In the guise of Mr. Applegate, the devil agrees to the transformation at the cost of Boyd's soul.

Audiences loved its engaging storyline, energetic choreography, and memorable songs. The production captures the heartbreak and excitement of baseball, America's favorite pastime, helping it resonate with baseball-loving audiences. The original show ran for 1,019 performances and enjoyed a 1994 revival featuring Jarrod Emick, Bebe Neuwirth, and Victor Garber. 

Rocky (2014)

Everyone loves an underdog story, which is one of the primary reasons for the Rocky franchise's global commercial success. Although the 2014 "Rocky the Musical" premiere was initially met with anticipation and skepticism, critics lauded the production's gritty realism, and the 1976 movie seamlessly transferred to the stage.

The story follows the titular Rocky Balboa (Andy Karl), a down-on-his-luck boxer who gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fight Apollo Creed (Terence Archie) for the world heavyweight title. Audiences were captivated by the underdog element of the production and the blossoming love story between Rocky and his beloved Adrian (Margot Seibert).

The narrative of "Rocky the Musical" appealed to boxing fans and theatergoers thanks to elaborate sets and choreography, particularly the training and fight sequences. The show features 20 original songs written by Stephen Flaherty, plus the iconic "Eye of the Tiger" and "Gonna Fly Now" from the original film series.

Bronx Bombers (2013)

"Bronx Bombers" premiered off-Broadway in September 2013 before the Eric Simonson-written play transferred to Broadway in January 2014. Although "Bronx Bombers" focuses on the New York Yankees' rich history, the production is a straight play that highlights the personal and professional lives of some of the Yankees' most storied players.

The "Bronx Bombers" narrative centers on Yogi Berra (Peter Scolari). The show starts in 1977, one day after Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin were engaged in a near-brawl during a game. Berra helps settle the argument in his hotel room with the help of his wife and the Yankees team captain, Thurman Munson. 

The story spans various eras of Yankees history through a series of imagined conversations. Baseball fans get to see brilliantly portrayed Yankees heroes, including Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, and Mickey Mantle.

Although well-received, "Bronx Bombers" closed after 29 regular performances.

Take Me Out (2003)

Many believe Richard Greenberg's 2002 play "Take Me Out" was before its time because of the issues it touches upon. Although "Take Me Out" is a baseball play at heart, it tackles the intersections of sports, social issues, and identity.

"Take Me Out" follows Darren Lemming (Daniel Sunjata), a star mixed-race center fielder for the fictional Empires Major League Baseball team, who comes out as gay. When the play was written, no Major League Baseball player had ever come out to the public during his career, and Greenberg wanted to explore what such an event would be like.

The play dives deep into themes of homophobia, racism, and the pressures public figures find themselves under. "Take Me Out" is notable for its unflinching portrayal of prejudice and its impact on individuals and teams.

"Take Me Out" had its global premiere at the Donmar Warehouse in London in June 2002 before transferring to the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway in February 2003. After 355 performances, it closed in January 2004.

At the 2003 Tony Awards, "Take Me Out" won Best Play, with Denis O'Hare winning the Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play for his portrayal of Mason Marzac. The play enjoyed a Broadway revival in 2022, winning the Best Revival of a Play at the 75th Tony Awards.

Lombardi (2010)

Based on the book "When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi" by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss, "Lombardi" premiered on Broadway in October 2010 and ran for 30 previews and 244 performances before closing in May 2011.

"Lombardi" follows Vince Lombardi (Dan Lauria), the Green Bay Packers head coach, through a week in the 1965 NFL season. In real life, the Packers won the NFL championship that year, the last season before the introduction of the Super Bowl. The play explores Lombardi's relentless pursuit of excellence, his complex personality, and his impact on those around him through a journalist's interview.

The show garnered a B+ rating on StageGrade, with most critics agreeing Lauria's portrayal of Lombardi was the highlight. Lauria's performance helped humanize one of American football's most iconic figures, a man often mythologized in the sport.

Conclusion

Broadway's exploration of sports-themed narratives showcases the universal appeal of plays centered around passion, perseverance, and triumph. Productions like "Damn Yankees," "Rocky the Musical," "Bronx Bombers," "Take Me Out," and "Lombardi" not only entertain by are also thought-provoking, making them valuable additions to Broadway.

These productions remind us that the pursuit of greatness is a compelling story worth telling, whether on the field or in the theatre



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