Book and Lyrics by Karen Zacarias . Music by Deborah Wicks La Puma
Directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer
Choreographed by Krissie Marty
Produced by Imagination Stage
Reviewed by Ted Ying
Do You Remember Where You Were…?
When you heard about 9/11? When space shuttle Columbia crashed? When JFK was assassinated? Most people remember where they were when pivotal events in history occurred. And like any other Pittsburgher, I remember when I learned in 1972 of the passing of our local hero, Roberto Clemente. Even kids like me who were not into sports, knew something about them as Pittsburgh takes its sports seriously. And the tragic death of one of the greatest athletes to play in Pittsburgh affected everyone in our sports-centric town. It is such universality that makes Looking for Roberto Clemente such a grand slam and provides a little something for everyone.
Sam (Derek Manson) is a kid who loves baseball. He and his two best friends, tomboy Charlie (Erika Rose) and math geek Peter (Zack Colonna), do everything together including play baseball. Although they don’t play particularly well (except for Charlie), they play passionately. And on the fateful day when Roberto Clemente (Don Kenneth Mason) had his 3000th hit, Sam is listening to the game on the radio and cheering him on. Something magical happens and suddenly Sam can converse with Roberto through his radio. And then, that historical ball crashes through Sam’s window. Sam shows it to his friends and finds that he can now pitch like a star. Joe (Matthew Schleigh) is the captain of the Barracudas, the best little league team. He’s impressed with Sam’s newfound skill and recruits both Sam and Charlie to play on the team. Tension mounts when Charlie is thrown off the team and Sam decides to stay with the team. Charlie decides to start up her own team and a rivalry between the two teams builds to the season finale, an upbeat ending that leaves the audience with a warm fuzzy feeling. Rounding out the cast are brothers Noah (Chris Wilson) and Tommy (J. P. Illarramendi) who part of the Barracuda team.
The show is well cast with a young, vibrant, enthusiastic ensemble. The energy that they bring to the performance helps keep everyone’s attention fixated on the stage. Our audience was about 80% full, about half of that being children ages 3-10 and even their attentions were glued to the stage. That’s entertainment.
Although the entire cast performed well and delivered a solid show, there were two standout performances given by Derek Manson (Sam) and Zack Colonna (Peter). Manson’s performance was amazing. His voice carried perfectly over the music like the lead singer in a star band and his moves were sharp and full of energy. When Manson was on stage (which was most of the show), the show was so alive and gripping whether he was the center of attention or one of the ensemble. Colonna brought a wonderful comic timing that keeps the audience smiling and laughing through the show. Don Kenneth Mason (Clemente) particularly shined in a beautiful 11 o’clock duet ballad with Manson.
Kudos to the artistic team who put together such a good production. Scenic designer Elizabeth Jenkins McFadden designed a clever black box set sporting a small baseball diamond and a stairway that immediately reminds one of a fire escape outside an apartment window to symbolize Sam’s bedroom. Director, Kathryn Chase Bryer keeps the story moving well and includes priceless details such as Sam “running the bases” each time he heads for home. Choreographer Krissie Marty uses simple but high energy dances to bring the right flavor to the show and help the twenty-somethings really convey the proper amount of youthfulness. The music of the three piece ensemble lead by Daniel Villar was perfect for the show. At times, the ensemble overpowered the singers slightly, but this did not detract from the enjoyment of the show. Lighting designed by Harold Burgess significantly helped to set mood and setting for each scene. That combined with Bryer’s direction made each locale distinctive and recognizable in a black box environment.
Writer Karen Zacarias has done an excellent job in creating a simple but touching script that was soundly able to keep the attention span of a houseful of children keyed to the stage. Composer Deborah Wicks La Puma creates a fun rock score that complements the simple story. Universal themes such as love of sports, friendship, hero worship and coping with tragedy make this show appealing to everyone. The touching ending completes the show perfectly for a family oriented show.
The early curtain times, short running time and brisk pace makes this well-worth bringing the whole family. Saturday evening performances are capped off with a post-show chat with the cast. Those who stayed for our discussion had the best laugh of the night when one young audience member noted that he had seen the show several times and commented that “It seemed different…It seemed like you all knew what you were doing more…”
Thanks to Imagination Stage for a delightful trip down memory lane for this native Pittsburgh son. I do remember where I was.
Running Time 1:30 including one 15-minute intermission
When: Through June 1. Saturdays 12:30, 3:30 & 7:00 PM. Sundays 12:30 & 3:30 PM.
Where: Imagination Stage, 4908 Auburn Ave, Bethesda, MD
Tickets: $10-$20 (group rate of $11 with 10 or more)
Info: 301-280-1660 or consult the website.