2018 Theatre of the Big Bend offers baseball, be-bop

ALPINE – Theatre of the Big Bend spreads baseball fever and contagious old time rock ‘n’ roll rhythm in the 2018 summer offerings. Performances will be held weekends, June 22-July 29 in the Kokernot Outdoor Theatre.

“Bleacher Bums,” a nine-inning comedy by actor Joe Mantegna, will be performed Friday-Sunday, June 22-July 1. “Smokey Joe’s Café,” a musical revue featuring the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, opens Friday, July 6.

“Bleacher Bums,” directed by Bret Scott, Sul Ross State University assistant professor of Communication, chronicles long-time Chicago Cubs fans, attending an afternoon game in the Wrigley Field bleachers.

“Bleacher Bums” is a 1977 play written collaboratively by members of Chicago’s Organic Theater Company, from an idea by Mantegna. Stuart Gordon directed the original Chicago production. A 1979 performance was taped for PBS television, and in 2002, a made-for-TV movie adaptation was produced.

“‘Bleacher Bums’ is a play about hope,” said Scott. “Every baseball fan, and especially every Cubs fan, has to be an optimist. I like to think that when the love of baseball is handed down through generations, what’s really being taught is how to hope. How to cheer for your team even when they’re terrible.”

“There’s a lot of value in being able to laugh in the face of long odds and long seasons, and ‘Bleacher Bums’ celebrates the everyday optimists.”

Dona Roman, Sul Ross professor of Theatre, directs “Smokey Joe’s Café,” which features 39 songs by the prolific song-writing team, including “Hound Dog,” “Kansas City,” “Ruby Baby,” “Poison Ivy” and “Yakety Yak.”

“Smokey Joe’s Café” opened on Broadway in 1995, running for 2,036 performances, the longest-running musical revue in Broadway history. It also had a London run in 1996. The original Broadway cast recording, “Smokey Joe’s Café: The Songs Of Leiber And Stoller,” won a Grammy award in 1997.

“This is the music I grew up with,” said Roman. “These hits played on the radio, and when I came home from school, I watched them performed on TV shows like ‘Hullabaloo,’ ‘Shindig’ and ‘American Bandstand.’”

“Listening to albums was a communal experience and this show captures that,” she said. “There is no plot, it’s a musical revue, and the show will really test the talents of the musicians.”