PRESS RELEASE: National Pastime

Keegan Presents World Premiere Musical at Church Street

March 10, 2011, Washington, DC — On Saturday, April 9, The Keegan Theatre opens NATIONAL PASTIME, a world premiere musical comedy written by Tony Sportiello (book) and Al Tapper (music and lyrics).  NATIONAL PASTIME tells the story of the employees of WZBQ, a radio station in Depression-era Iowa that is on the verge of bankruptcy. To spark ratings, the station invents a fictional, unbeatable baseball team and begins to broadcast phony baseball games as though real. All works to perfection until the media begins to pay attention.

A reading of NATIONAL PASTIME took place at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in New York in May 2010.  Producers from Chicago and New York are joining forces with the Keegan Theater for this limited five-week engagement prior to its moving onward.

“I felt an immediate connection to this piece when I read it and heard the music,” says Mark A. Rhea, Keegan’s Artistic Director.  “It’s charming and accessible – and almost nostalgic in structure and storytelling.  The writing is clever, the characters are endearing, and the music is engaging and fun as well.  Most of all, though, I think the story itself is going to appeal to a wide audience, and the size and nature of the piece are a perfect fit for the intimate setting of Church Street.  We are thrilled to introduce this musical to D.C. audiences.”

The writers of NATIONAL PASTIME are equally excited about the project, which has involved several trips to DC to discuss the collaboration and to observe rehearsals and attend other Keegan productions.  “I was invited down to see a production of Noises Off! at Keegan and I knew right away this was the place for us to be,” says Sportiello, the book writer. “Not only was the acting and directing terrific, but the production values were on such a high level that I felt Keegan could do anything.  I was thrilled when they announced they wanted to produce NATIONAL PASTIME.”  When asked for comment, Al Tapper (music and lyrics) said only:  “Mark thinks rhyming Alka Seltzer is easy.”

NATIONAL PASTIME is produced in association with Sondra Healy and Jason Hewitt.  Mark A. Rhea and Susan Marie Rhea direct; Jake Null music directs. Choreography by Kurt Boehm.  Feautring Brian Cali, Paige Felix, Larissa Gallagher, John Loughney, Timothy Lynch, Katie McManus, Tim O’Kane, Carolyn Myers, Autumn Seavey, Josh Sticklin, Dan Van Why.

NATIONAL PASTIME will open on a limited five-week engagement in Washington, DC on April 9, 2011. The press opening is Saturday, April 16, 2011, at 8:00pm.

Tony Sportiello (Book) is the author of several plays, including LOL, The Bet, Tickets, Please!, The Valley of Fear, The Grandfather Paradox, Second Chance, Love On Trial, Star Power and The Summer of Katya.  Tony’s plays National Pastime and Contract Time are in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown, NY.  Tony is the Artistic Director of Algonquin Theater Productions and the producer of the hit shows Sessions, An Evening at The Carlyle and Shel Silverstein’s The Devil and Billy Markham.

Al Tapper (Music and Lyrics) wrote the book, music and lyrics for the Off-Broadway show Sessions, which ran for fourteen months in New York and is currently playing in Guadalajara, Mexico.  Sessions is the first Off-Broadway show ever to play in Guadalajara, a city of five million people.  He is also the creator of the Off-Broadway shows An Evening at The Carlyle and Imperfect Chemistry.  His plays include Bettinger’s Luggage and Conversations with Max.