October 8, 2013

The Beacon – ‘National Pastime’ finally heading to Broadway from Wilkes-Barre roots

Posted By Kimmie Braunthal

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The Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre has been chosen as one of only three venues in the country where NATIONAL PASTIME, a musical comedy written by New York producers, will be performed before it makes its way to Broadway next year.

National Pastime follows a radio station desperate for ratings during the Great Depression. The station, in order to increase ratings, begins to broadcast fictitious baseball games. Eventually, the whole town becomes fixated with the fake team.

Tony Sportiello, author of the book the play was based on, said the shows will serve as test runs; a way to fine tune the production before they take it to New York in the fall of 2014.“We’re hoping we’ll learn about what works and what doesn’t work,” Sportiello said. “That will help us make (this) a better show – better for the audience, better for the critics, and better for the whole experience.”

Christa Manning, director of the production, said she is excited to be able to work with a “fresh slate” – an opportunity, she said, that will allow her to give something life that’s never had it before. “This is an opportunity to take somebody’s vision and make it my vision,” Manning said. “A lot of times when you’re directing a show … you have to pay homage of what people expect from that show … this time I don’t.  I don’t have any preconceptions from an audience, and as a director, that’s not a chance you get very often at all.”

LTWB Production Coordinator-General Manager Walter Mitchell called the experience “an honor and a privilege.” “Here are nonprofessional actors, producers, (and) directors in northeastern Pennsylvania who see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said. “Who could ever have thought that (they) would have a crack at doing a bound for Broadway show? It’s just extraordinary.”

Deirdre Lynch, a 2008 Wilkes graduate who plays Karen Sloan in the production, described the process as exciting and nerve-wracking – though, she said, it’s an experience she won’t soon forget. “How many people can say they’ve touched something that went on Broadway?” she said. “That’s amazing.”

LTWB (co-founded by Dorothy Dickson Darte in 1922) is on its 91st continuous season. NATIONAL PASTIME opens Oct. 25 and will run for 11 shows before it goes to Phoenix in March. Tickets are free for students with ID. For more information, visit ltwb.org.

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