Sometimes the best sports stories are the ones that never actually happened.
Hoboken resident and producer Pierre Weidemann’s new musical comedy “National Pastime” is yet another mile-square script about baseball. But this story has a unique twist: the baseball team the story focuses on doesn’t actually exist.
In Weidemann’s story, a fledgling 1930s radio station, WZBQ, airs fabricated commentary on a long-defunct baseball team called the Baker City Cougars. The station does so to save itself. But when a writer from Life magazine comes to the small Iowa town to write a story about the fictitious team, the radio station’s secret is about to get out.
“It’s very infectious and really Americana.” – Pierre Weidemann
The two-act musical, which Weidemann hopes to bring to Broadway next year, runs just under two hours and with nine professional actors and four back-up singers is a relatively big-time production.
“It’s very infectious and really Americana,” Weidemann said. “You can forget all your troubles, and you get to go back to a more innocent time. And it’s really humorous too. The announcers have never done a baseball game before, so they’re messing everything up.”
But for Weidemann, who has worked on an impressive list of Hollywood heavyweight movies like “Mask of Zorro” and “Collateral Damage” featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, the 1930s small-town comedy also parallels life in the 21st century.
“It parallels the times we live in today, with the economy and everyone losing their jobs,” he said. “Except a fictitious team today would be a lot easier to figure out.”
Holy grail of baseball
Weidemann, along with Algonquin Theater Productions, is set to perform the one-night only show the first week of May at the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., where the company has performed the musical comedy twice in the past.
“I was visiting Cooperstown and noticed the tourists needed entertainment for the evening,” he said.
The show takes place at the Grandstand Theater, right in the Hall of Fame building, and will seat 200 guests. The company might get picked up to perform the musical through the summer at the theater, an offer that was on the table after past performances.
From good to great
Weidemann, who has been a producer for the last eight years, worked with friend and librettist Tony Sportiello on the script and on the music and lyrics with Al Tapper. After Weidemann returned from a long stint in southern California, the trio transformed the play, which was originally written in the 1990s, from a simple comedy into a musical.
“It’s incredible we’ve been working on it for so long,” Weidemann said. “It was a terrific little comedy, but turning it into a musical really opens it up.”
Weidemann, who has lived all over Hudson County including in Weehawken and Union City, hopes to bring the musical to theaters in New York City or possibly the DeBaun Theater in Hoboken.
“Hoboken’s the birthplace [of baseball], after all,” he said.
But for Weidemann, one of the biggest thrills is being able to get sports lovers into the theater.
“You’re really bringing together two audiences that normally don’t mix very often,” Weidemann said. “Sports fans who really get a thrill out of this, and theater fans. We’re trying to build a bridge here,” he joked.
For more information on “National Pastime” check out the National Pastime page on Facebook.
Sean Allocca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org