I seem to have hit the Eric Simonson trifecta. In 2011, I attended Simonson’s first sports play on Broadway, Lombardi, at the Circle in the Square Theatre on closing night. A year later, Simonson hit Broadway again, this time chronicling the 80s sensation of the NBA with Magic/Bird. Now, in 2014, I found myself taking in Simonson’s third foray into a major American sport, Bronx Bombers, which again finds itself at the Circle in the Square Theatre.
Bronx Bombers follows the tale of Yogi Berra through his time as coach of the Yankees during the famed Billy Martin/Reggie Jackson feuds of the 70s all the way through the closing of Yankee Stadium, the House that Ruth Built, in 2008. Along the way, we meet Martin, Jackson, Thurman Munson, Lou Gehrig, Micky Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Ruth and Derek Jeter.
Rodgers + Hammerstein’s 2013 version Cinderella on Broadway is a perfectly enjoyable and entertaining — albeit purposely superficial — take on the timeless fairy tale classic.
Many of the elements of the original story are features in this remake, with the main character Ella (the nickname Cinder is given by her evil stepmother for all of the hours she slaves in front of a fireplace) as the punching bag for her step-mother and step sisters. With the help of her Fairy Godmother, Cinderella is, on two occasions, given to the stroke of midnight to meet the Prince of her dreams. Only in this version, she must set into motion a meeting between a well-meaning revolutionary, Jean-Michel, and Topher, the Prince, because the poor are being swept under the rug by the Prince’s oppressive regime.
The decision to make a socioeconomic statement is curious, partly because of how cantankerous the issue has become in recent elections, but also because it only makes a feeble attempt at raising and then ultimately dismissing the issue. The subplot is not critical to the story and therefore not really needed. Jean-Michel’s character is also used as a romantic foil to Gabrielle, one of the step sisters. Cinderella’s other step-sister, Charlotte, is cartoonish and far too over the top, and ends up irritating more than endearing herself to her audience. The same could be said about stepmother Madame and Topher, though his character still has some charm to his “aw-shucks” attitude.
Let me be clear before the outset of this review: I did not attend an Ivy League school, nor did I previously have an appreciation for it. Save for a few friends who worshiped Penn hoops, my loyalties remain in the old Big East and the current ACC. So it is with that lens that I review Ed Breslin’s The Divine Nature of Basketball: My Season Inside the Ivy League, his look at the 2011-12 Yale Bulldogs basketball team, led by head coach James Jones. Breslin petitioned Jones to be a special assistant coach, essentially shadowing the team throughout the entire season. What follows is an insiders look at one of the more entertaining Yale basketball seasons in recent memory.
It’s clear within a few pages of reading that Breslin eats, prays and loves college basketball. Breslin devours media guides and watches intently through practices. Throughout the course of the season, Yale basketball completely consumes his life and his passion oozes through the pages of the book. His enthusiasm is contagious, and it’s hard not to become a Yale fan, too.