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Friday, April 19, 2013

Meet Jackie Robinson

First Stage’s baseball time travel show

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The First Stage Children’s Theater production of Jackie and Me is an inspirational tribute to Jackie Robinson, performed with the greatest of sincere intentions for a youthful audience. This is children’s theater and woe onto him who does not accept it on its own terms. It’s a great show to take the kids to, and the exuberant pre-adolescents were enthralled on opening night.

John Brotherhood, a 14-year old from Mequon, takes on the role of Joey. With his magic baseball card, Joey travels back in time to 1947 to meet his idol, Robinson, as the first African American with the Brooklyn Dodgers was subjected to racial slurs typical of the time. Time travel changes his face to black, allowing him to share Robinson’s stress. Brotherhood attacks his lengthy and demanding role head-on.

Playwright Steven Dietz’s dialogue, based upon a popular book by Dan Gutman, is to the point. The show leaves few bases uncovered for younger audiences. Adult cast members fare quite well, especially Georgina McKee as Mom, James Fletcher as Dad and a bravura performance by Alexander Pawlowski as the Coach. As Jackie Robinson, Chauncy Thomas seems a bit gun shy with the play’s more obvious takes on racism, and his voice does not lend well to the bigger moments, but his modest approach looks pleasing on stage. Director Jeff Frank’s use of televised visuals is economically effective, especially with time transitions, and he allows his cast to breathe their way comfortably through this crowd-pleaser.

Jackie and Me continues at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater through May 5. For ticket reservations call 414-273-7206 visit firststage.org.
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