In baseball-speak, the American Repertory Theater’s artistic director Diane Paulus has completed her first season batting a thousand. Not only has every show been a hit, but most have been the theatrical equivalent of grand slams.
And to close this season with “Johnny Baseball,” a feel-good, family-friendly musical about the Red Sox that’s about as different from her season-opening (and still running) “Donkey Show” as you could possibly get, just proves that the A.R.T. is indeed opening its doors to a whole new demographic of theatergoers.
“Johnny Baseball” is a sweet, wholesome musical, complete with a love story, a happy ending and enough upbeat musical numbers to keep you humming their melodies all the way home. And it’s a story about long-suffering also-rans overcoming an 85-year curse in grand fashion.
Though it’s a simple story, Paulus has assembled such an extraordinary ensemble of Broadway talent to bring it to life that even non-baseball — or worse, Yankee — fans will delight in its telling.
Set at Fenway Park during the infamous curse-reversing Yankee game of 2004, this tale of America’s favorite pastime is told with the help of an elderly fan and a young boy in what feels like an homage to the heartwarming Mean Joe Greene Coca-Cola commercials from the 1970s.
The stunning vocals of Stephanie Umoh (Daisy) and Colin Donnell (Johnny O’Brien) make this a first- rate musical production. But it’s the ensemble work, including an especially uproarious performance by Carly Jibson, that gives this production the kind of heart that would, curse be damned, keep a city rooting for its hometown heroes.