Written by: Taylor Gates
Rockwell Table and Stage has hit a home run with their newest unauthorized musical parody. After the wild success of adapting flicks like 10 Things I Hate About You and Clueless, the venue has once again leaned into 90s movies nostalgia with the female-centric sports show—and completely knocked it out of the park.
Rockwell has tackled challenges before. From the need for dinosaurs in Jurassic Park to the wilderness setting of Troop Beverly Hills, they’ve always found creative (and hilarious) ways to make the most of the small space and minimal props, causing the audience to feel truly immersed in the story. A League of Their Own has the unique obstacle of being a sports-themed movie, and it’s not exactly possible to throw a ball around in the middle of a packed theater.
The solution? Mallory Butcher’s choreography. The elaborate twirling and tossing of baseball bats is constantly exciting, and mixed with Chadd Michael McMillan’s superb costume design, the stage magically transforms from a night at the theatre to a day at the diamond without a hitch.
Also adding to the authenticity is Gregory Nabours’ musical direction. Rockwell has frequently tackled the 80s and beyond, but Nabours proves he has what it takes to transport us back even further, seamlessly infusing the 40s into the show. His talent is exceptionally apparent in the mashups, and highlights include Shania Twain’s “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” meshed with a hopping swing medley and a doo-wop version of Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”
One fun thing about this show is that it is a true ensemble cast, and everyone gets a chance to shine. Not only that, but even though traits and personalities are exaggerated, all the characters—the women, in particular—feel well-rounded and multi-dimensional: a sad rarity, especially in comedy.
Central to the story, of course, are Dottie and Kit, played by Natalie Masini and Amanda Kruger. With an undeniable sibling chemistry, these two are a blast to watch, whether they’re bickering, batting, or milking cows together. Kruger’s earnestness and spunk make her impossible not to root for, and Masini’s ostentatiousness, Old Hollywood glamour, and ability to single-handedly beat the opposing team (in heels!) makes her a protagonist we can’t help but love (and love to hate sometimes). Plus, her “A Thousand Years” duet and interpretive dance with Jeffrey’s Landman’s Jon Lovitz gets some of the biggest laughs of the show.
Another notable moment includes Doris’ (the magnetic Molly Stillens) “Before He Cheats,” which also includes one of the funniest cases of audience interaction when she berates a poor, unsuspecting (yet good sport) audience member pretending to be her unfaithful husband. Marla Hooch (Gina D’Acciaro, the life of the party) also finds love among the attendees, getting married to a random lucky lady by the end of the show.
Rounding off the ensemble is Katie Powers, putting her own twist on the iconic Madonna role that’s both sexy and heartfelt, Nohely Quiroz, having a blast with the quirky ridiculousness of Betty Spaghetti, and Chris Fore, nailing the deliciously bro-ey Jimmy Dugan and getting gut-busting laughs with the “Bette Davis Eyes” remix “Geena Davis Eyes.”
One has to largely tribute the success of this show to Emma Hunton, who—after dominating the stage in shows like Scissorhands and Hocus Pocus—has stepped behind the scenes for the first time. It’s clear she’s brought this acting expertise to her newfound role, as she’s taken veteran writer Kate Pazakis’ (always solid, always hysterical) script and delivered one of the most focused and character-driven shows in the history of the UMPO series. A fresh and confident directorial debut, Hunton is definitely one to watch, and I hope we get a chance to see more of her direction soon.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a true Rockwell experience without some delicious bites accompanying the performance. The venue has recently revamped its menu, switching up some of its staples. New eats like the delicious Cowboy Burger and Nashville Hot Chicken Tenders not only boost the ballpark feel of this particular show, but they also add some new flair to the selection. The themed cocktails, such as The Dugout and Marla’s Hooch, add to the playfulness and fun of the outing.
There’s no crying in baseball—unless you count the tears running down your cheeks from laughing so hard. Don’t strike out! Gather your team and get on deck to go see UMPO’s A League of Their Own.