3 out of 4 stars
A double play, but not quite enough to get a run. Miracle at the Royal George follows the story of the Delaney’s, a diehard Cubs family with each member holding their own story riding on the 2016 season. As times change and the family business faces the threat of a growing neighborhood, can they keep faith, not only in their team, but each other?
This play is a hit or miss for most audience members. As something this kitsch, it’s obvious you will have people that will love it because it’s about their favorite baseball team that finally beat the odds, while others will scoff for not living up to their standards or even their own miraculous stories on the 2016 World Series after a 108-year drought.
The brain child of former Illinois State Senator, property and Broadway investor, and longtime Cubs fan William Marovitz and producer/promoter Arny Granat, “Miracle” holds a special place in many of the creative team’s hearts. “The Chicago Cubs have had a memorable impact on not only Chicagoans, but fans around the world,” says Marovitz. “This story is more than just baseball. It illustrates how hope, faith, and belief can take you somewhere where you never imagined. With this musical, we celebrate the highs and lows of life directly paralleled with the Cubs winning the World Series, and how believing in a miracle can get you further than you ever could have ever dreamed.”
A few blocks away in Wrigleyville, fictional Maggie’s Bar has seen it all over the years. Loss after loss with unfruitful baseball seasons and even greater loss of its matriarch. Brandon Dahlquist stars as former All Star pitcher Charlie holding things down at the family bar with his wife, daughter and dad with his regulars that have become family over the years. With a voice to die for, Dahlquist navigates through the frustration of being a Cubs fan and losing hope in baseball and a future for the local watering hole as property taxes rise and commercial bars run rampant on Clark Street, all while family issues boil up.
With book by Jason Brett, music and lyrics by Jeff Award-winner Michael Mahler and directed by Damon Kiely, this production is definitely a Cubs-fans only zone. Not only did it pay homage to the 2016 team, but countless inside quirks that really play off of being a Chicagoan and against the odds. Some songs definitely seemed like fodder for the 2-hour production like a solo about how much the winter sucks and the unbearable cold. These moments tap into Chicago’s quirks, but really don’t hold their own in the broader scheme of the play.
The angle of appealing to non-theater goers is strong and reliving the excitement of the actual season was more a perk. The real gem of this musical is the sound design by Ray Nardelli and projection design by Mike Tutaj. Paired together linking Cubs footage from the 2016 season with audio from those games really taps into the soul of why we are all in that theater. Tutaj’s collages and blending between scenes was simplistic, but effective. It balanced well with the production’s live action with the simple base line before the intricate sequences of baseball.
The cast was extremely talented, yet was hindered by the stage set up as the orchestra pit was a hole downstage center. While there’s not much to do about physical restrictions, the choreography made me nervous whenever the entire company had to cross stage very near this gapping orchestra pit. The live music was nice and some catchy tunes were strung throughout the piece. The addition of the 7th inning stretch was a nice touch, as well as the Eddie Vedder’s dedicated “Someday We’ll Go All The Way: Live at Wrigley” upon entering the theater.
Some noteworthy performances were by Jonathan Butler-Duplessis as “Larry”, Charlie’s best friend who deals with his own struggles between balancing friendship and his own future. Butler-Duplessis hones a talent to convey in an enticing dynamic way through his vocals and acting. The young Danielle, played by Amaris Sanchez, is energetic and fanatic over the boys in blue. Sanchez’s spunk shines as she plays opposite Gene Weygandt as Pops. Weygandt’s voice is astounding and so rich in tone. Evocative and endearing, Weygandt serves as many long time Cubbie fans that deserve much of the spotlight for any 2016 Series story. He has credits in Broadway: Wicked, Big; National Tour: Wicked, A Christmas Story; Marriott Theatre: Jeff Award Recipients A Day in Hollywood and Me and My Girl).
The set of Maggie’s bar seemed to be the most put together. Historical images and pennants are not hard to come by in this neighborhood, but considering this had such large backing I think that they projections and bar set were the most sought after regarding perfection, while the other momentary scenes were lacking detail and effort. The set changes were good, but as I stated I was just wanting a touch more from the bedroom moments and the like.
You are competing with recent memories and individual’s own personal miraculous stories about this phenomenal event. The production started out with a bang, but somehow lost steam somewhere in the middle only to be picked back up disjointedly towards the end where hope comes out of nowhere – kind of similar to how the rain delay in game 6 disjointedly lead the Cubs to victory. Strong bones, yet just didn’t fully sell me, but then again am I the target audience? Probably not. It’s definitely worth it for the Cubs fans looking for nostalgia and good production, but as a standalone – maybe not.
The performance schedule for MIRACLE is Wednesdays at 7:30pm, Thursdays at 2pm and 7:30pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 3pm. For more information, please visit www.miraclethemusical.com,www.ticketmaster.com or by calling The Royal George Theatre box office at 312.988.9000.
Mary Crylen is a photographer and writer based in Chicago. She is an alum of Southern Illinois University of Carbondale with dual degrees in English and Photography. She possesses a sincere passion for the arts and believes zeal shows through work. Follow her on Twitter!