Before the teams take the field in the World Series, they ought to consider watching this uneven but well-intentioned Christian-oriented musical about a youth baseball team. Not only do the kids offer a new perspective on winning and losing, they also never scratch or spit. Reminiscent of a doting parent’s videotape of a school play, the production begins with the 21 kids on the team and their adult coach on stage preparing for the season’s first game. The ensemble breaks into a high-spirited rendition of ”It’s That Season Again,” one of the 10 original songs written for Shortstops by Paula Y. Flautt, Dan Keen, and Alan Robertson.
Despite the upbeat start, team spirit wanes quickly when the coach (Wayne Gurley) announces that an untested player, Michele ”Mickie” Mantle, is going to share the shortstop position with Spikes (Tommy Stinson), an all-star. Mickie (Susannah Smith) subsequently performs poorly and considers quitting. But she and her teammates conclude that God can help resolve this and other problems the children encounter.
The production, however, has its own problems, which aren’t resolved. The sound in Shortstops is bad from start to finish. It’s as if the microphone had been in a garbage can during the recording. As as result, lyrics sometimes are difficult to understand. That’s unfortunate, because some of the eight songs are cleverly written and many of the kids are good singers. That casting is unfortunate, too: No minorities are represented.
Although dialogue is minimal, judicious editing could have helped. When Emily (Jonna Volz) says she plays first base, Mickie says, ”Wow! You must be some catch.” Even rookies don’t use ”catch” that way; it’s a forced setup for a weak joke in the form of Emily’s reply: ”My daddy says when I grow up I’ll be a real catch.” There are also some detail glitches. Home plate is backward on stage; although no one appears to be in the audience, several people can be heard clapping after one song.
The musical’s message, depending on your religion or lack thereof, is simplistic, dogmatic, or maybe even offensive — or it’s uplifting, timeless, and right on target. Damn Yankees it’s definitely not. Darn Yankees — well, maybe. B-