'Bronx Bombers' review: Deja vu, again
"Look, I may be nostalgic, but I don't like to live in the past." So said Yogi Berra in one of the Yankee icon's famous Yogi-locutions, unless maybe he didn't say it because, as he also supposedly said, "I really didn't say everything I said."
Or so he says in "Bronx Bombers," Eric Simonson's sentimental, nostalgic, mildly diverting love letter to the Yanks, which has opened on Broadway, recast with Peter Scolari as Yogi, after a lukewarm reception Off-Broadway last fall.
Like Simonson's "Lombardi," heavily promoted by the NFL, and his "Magic/Bird," connected to the NBA, "Bronx Bombers" is presented in association with the Yankees and Major League Baseball Properties.
In other words, this is official sports-niche theater, a reverential genre discovered and filled since 2010 by author/director Simonson and his producers. The lobby of the theater is festooned with colorful memorabilia and, inside, the audience sits on all four sides as if facing the field.
The first act is pegged to a 1977 flashpoint, when manager Billy Martin (Keith Nobbs in moody-cowboy black) dared to take star Reggie Jackson out of a game against the Red Sox game in the middle of an inning. After Yogi tries to make things right at a secret hotel meeting, he returns home to the supportive missus (Tracy Shayne, Scolari's real-life bride) and hallucinates a midnight banquet.
All the ghostly old-timers have been invited -- a pugnacious Mickey Mantle (Bill Dawes), a slick Joe DiMaggio (Chris Henry Coffey), an almost angelic Lou Gehrig (John Wernke, glowing with innocence of his impending disease) and a boisterous, racist Babe Ruth (C.J. Wilson). Francois Battiste, cockily pitch-perfect as Jackson, returns as Elston Howard, first black Yankee. Oh, and Derek Jeter is there (Christopher Jackson), dashing, humble and heroic, naturally.
Scolari plays Yogi with obvious affection for a legend bent with age but unbowed in team loyalty, a man panicked at the sense of the team ever splitting apart. There is plenty of inside-baseball inside-stuff, explained with relative grace. And for those of us who don't much care, designer David C. Woolard amuses us with the changing styles of the uniforms.
WHAT "Bronx Bombers"
WHERE Circle in the Square Theatre, 1633 Broadway
INFO $67-$137; 212-239-6200; bronxbombersplay.com.
BOTTOM LINE More sports-niche theater, sentimental and mildly diverting.