- CHARITY BENEFIT
Stating in their promo: “At the heart of one of the fiercest rivalries in sports, two of the greatest athletes of all-time battled for multiple championships and the future of their sport. Hall of Famers Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird could not have been more different; one black, one white; one an urbanite with a big smile and Hollywood appeal, and the other a quiet small town guy. Johnson and Bird, went head to head, electrified the nation, reinvigorated the NBA, and turned their rivalry into the greatest and most famous friendships in professional sports. With classic NBA footage prominently designed throughout, Magic/Bird transports the audience into the heart of their matchup. From Draft to Olympic Dream Team.”
The show has a hard working six-member cast but a script as dull as dishwater. I don’t know a whole lot about sports so I actually looked forward to learning more. I did not. The play opens with the cast introducing themselves…weird. Then Larry Bird (Tug Coker) receives the call that Magic Johnson (Kevin Daniels) has been infected with the HIV virus, a story that made international headlines in 1991 and changed the face of HIV/AIDS in the US. Then there is an awkward move roll back to 1978, where we see Magic get drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers for $400K, at the time the largest MBA signing deal ever, and Larry getting drafted for $450K to the Boston Celtics. There the rivalry begins until a fated commercial and Larry Byrd’s mom (Deirdre O’Connell), intervenes and history is changed.
Kevin Daniels as Magic Johnson is better than Tug Coker as Larry Bird. Coker, making his Broadway debut, is just dull or is it actually Byrd, the actor, the writing or the direction? Deirdre O’Connell tackles several roles, actually all the female parts, and was amusing and memorable. Rounding out the cast are Peter Scolari (better in “Newhart”), Robert Ray Manning, Jr., and Francois Battiste.
Playwright Eric Simonson’s direction is just boring and director Tommy Kail doesn’t help with the blurry videos of the past. A barrage of theatre superstars were brought together for the creative team, David Korins (set), Howell Binkley (lighting), Paul Tazewell (costumes), and Nevin Steinberg (sound) but it just doesn’t work. Projection designer Wendell K. Harrington weaves historic NBA film footage throughout the play to add that historic feel, but again it is so blurry that I had a headache by the end. The use of live acting and historical footage is a great idea if there were equal amounts but this just made me feel as if I were at an MTV version of a play.
Magic/Bird focus on these two men, their rivalry, and how they changed the face of Basketball. Fans of these NBA icons, will be in heaven and for that reason I am glad Magic/Byrd is here.