Tuesday, June 19, 2012
How will Mike Tyson fare on Broadway?
By Lynn Hoppes
This post has been amended to remove passages that did not meet ESPN standards for original language.
With Monday's announcement that boxing great Mike Tyson and legendary director Spike Lee are bringing the play "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth" to Broadway, Playbook looks at how other sports shows have fared in New York.
In "Undisputed Truth," which will have a six-night limited run July 31-Aug. 5 at the Longacre Theatre, Tyson shares stories of his life inside and outside the ring. He was the undisputed heavyweight champion in the mid-1980s and holds the record as the youngest boxer to win the WBC, WBA and IBF world heavyweight titles. But controversy always followed him.
“Sharing the highlights and lowlights of my life with New York is especially important to me as I was born and raised in Brooklyn," Tyson said. "I am thrilled to bring the story to Broadway.” So what are the chances the Tyson play will be successful?
MIKE TYSON: UNDISPUTED TRUTH
Details: The one-man play, to be directed by Spike Lee, is a personal look inside the life and mind of one of the most feared men ever to wear the heavyweight crown.
The verdict: The weeklong run at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in April was viewed a success, so the NYC run should likely duplicate that.
A quick look back at some other shows:
Details: The musical is set on the campus of the fictional Southern Baptist Institute of Technology where the worlds of science and sports collide when the principles of engineering are applied to football strategies and vice versa.
The verdict: Mel Brooks wrote the book for All-American and much more successful shows than this one.
Details: Originally produced in Chicago, the 1977 play from an idea by actor Joe Mantegna takes place in the bleachers of Wrigley Field. The characters are a bunch of Cubs fans, watching a game on a summer afternoon. Most of them have been gathering here for some time, even if they might not necessarily like each other.
The verdict: Still a hit from regional theater to national productions. Mantegna, Dennis Franz, Dennis Farina, George Wendt and Wayne Knight all have performed in the show. "This show continues to amaze me as it's done more than I ever imagined," Mantegna said. "It's still resonates today."
Sean Hayes portrayed the Devil in 'Damn Yankees.' Is Jim Carrey next?
Details: The musical comedy is set during the 1950s in Washington, D.C., during a time when the New York Yankees dominated baseball. Real estate agent Joe Boyd is a long-suffering fan of the pathetic Washington Senators baseball team and considers selling his soul to the Devil so his team can beat the "Damn Yankees."
The verdict: Still the most popular sports musical of all time with many productions throughout the nation. There has been talk that there will be another film version with Jim Carrey as the Devil and Jake Gyllenhaal as the lead.
GREAT WHITE HOPE
Details: The 1967 play, written by Howard Sackler, tells the fictional story of boxing champion Jack Johnson, here called Jack Jefferson. The play explores how segregation and prejudice created the demand for a "great white hope" against Johnson.
The verdict: The play was hugely successful and the phrase "Great White Hope" is still used today in boxing circles.
Dan Lauria as the title character in 'Lombardi.'
Details: Lombardi, written by Milwaukee-born Eric Simonson, is based on the best-selling biography "When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi," by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss. The show tells the story of the life of one of America’s most inspirational and mercurial personalities, Hall of Fame football coach, Vince Lombardi. Dan Lauria ("The Wonder Years") and Tony nominee Judith Light ("Wit") led the cast.
The verdict: The play was critically acclaimed and had big names and a pretty successful run. It wouldn't be surprising to see a revival during football season.
Details:: The play was about the rivalry/friendship of basketball legends Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Magic really wanted the play done, while Bird was lukewarm about the idea. But their friendship catapulted it onto Broadway.
A sign at the the premiere of Magic/Bird on Broadway.
The verdict: It wasn't a vanity project because there was depth to the story, but it was hard for the audiences to view two actors portraying real-life athletes who are still living.
Details: Written by Neil Simon, the play premiered on Broadway in 1965 and still is being performed. The plot is about two mismatched roommates, one neat and uptight, the other easygoing and slobbish (sports connection: the latter is a sportswriter). The popular play turned into an even more successful show on television.
The verdict: One of the most popular plays still being performed. In fact, in 1985 on Broadway, there was a female version of the show: The Female Odd Couple ran from June 11, 1985, to Feb. 23, 1986, after 295 performances. It starred Sally Struthers and Rita Moreno
TAKE ME OUT
Details: The 2002 play by American playwright Richard Greenberg is set mostly in the locker room of a baseball team and explores themes of homophobia, racism and class.
The verdict: The theme is worth discussing and the show was a hit, prompting its move to Broadway. It grabbed a lot of attention in part because of the male nudity.
THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON
Details: The 1972 play by Jason Miller, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, is about four members of the starting lineup of a Catholic high school basketball team gathered 20 years after their glory days to reminisce with their terminally ill coach.
The verdict: The athletes reminisce about their days growing up and how their lives turned out. It was also made into a film and a made-for-TV movie.