When college theater groups commission works from students, the results can either be entertaining or disastrous. Thankfully, FET’s production of Take Your Base, written by Fordham students Jeff Sharkey and Jim Murtagh, falls into the former category, with a good story, a great score and some funny actors.
The show is a musical love story set at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. Brendan O’Neill, a benched player on the Maine team and the coach’s son, falls in love with Becky Pullman, the daughter of the coach of the opposing Oregon team. Complications ensue, as the pair must deal with Becky’s ex-boyfriend and a 30-year-old rivalry between their fathers, who they each have strained relationships with.
Murtagh and Sharkey execute their various roles with relative ease. As directors, they ensure that Take Your Base, as with every show in the Blackbox Theatre, makes expert use of the theatre’s small space, utilizing a simple set that is just right for the simple story told on it.
The book of the show is engrossing, making the audience care about the love story between Brendan and Becky. While it fleshes out the relationship between Brendan and his father pretty well, Becky and her father are not as fully realized as characters, each given only a few idiosyncrasies that do not make the audience care about them as much.
Where Murtagh and Sharkey’s work really shows through is the score. The folky score utilizes only stringed instruments and limited percussion, and this is perfect for the story. The highlight is the show’s big group number, “From Portland to Portland,” a foot-stomping anthem used at the beginning and end of the show that brings down the house. In terms of individual numbers, the best is “I Wish You Were My Kid,” sung by Coach O’Neill to his team’s star player while his own son is sitting on the same bench. The number is funny and snarky, encapsulating the best of what this show has to offer.
The ensemble of the show is a great roster of talent. Connor McCausland, as Brendan, is a charming protagonist, making us care about if he gets the girl. Elle Crane does not have as much to play with as Becky, but she has crack comic timing and her big revelation at the end of the show is unexpected and hilarious. As her father, Terence Petersen has some good lines, though again the book does not give him much to do. Matt Burns, as ex-boyfriend Lance, gives his character the exact right buffoonish tone without overacting. Sam Farnum and Tom Perry, as the Little League World Series announcers, have some very amusing banter.
The show MVP, though, is Mike Drosos as Coach O’Neill. He has crack comic timing, making his two comic monologues the show’s big laugh-getters.
While it may not quite make the major leagues, Take Your Base is a solid inside-the-park home run. Murtagh and Sharkey show they have real talent, and give the Fordham theater season a very promising start.