Photo credit: Maria Baranova-Suzuki

The Perfect Game

Reviewer’s Rating

Performing Off-Broadway in the intimate setting of Theater Row, The Perfect Game is a lively and warm-hearted musical, perfect for a freezing January night in NYC.

John Grissmer, the author, composer and lyricist, has created an entertaining musical that takes us between 1891 and the current day, weaving the historical story of the creation of basketball with a modern tale of a coach trying to recapture their love of the game. Grissmer’s passion for basketball is obvious, and the audience are swept along as we learn the story of how this game came to exist.

While some of the musical numbers are bigger hitters than others, overall the show is wonderfully energetic and funny. Attempts to over-explain a mysterious time travel devise are perhaps a little unnecessary, but a song about the randomness of electrons does establish the mood for the musical – comic silliness with a joyful story at its heart.

Three cheerleaders bring excellent energy and humor to the performance. Jesse Lynn Harte, Akina Kitazawa and Milena J. Comeau dance and sing with a cheeky sense of fun. Highlights are their dedication to insulting the arch-rival team and their hilarious reprimanding of poor Coach Frank, terrifying him that his attempts to befriend Coach Nancy could take him to the Sexual-Harassment-Investigation-Tribunal. Throughout the musical, the choreography is witty and packed with spirit. Whether it’s the bouncing cheerleaders, gym practice from the 19th century, or a modern basketball game played in slow motion, the stage is rarely still.

There are some beautiful moments, such as the first encounter of Naismith and his wife to be, Maude Sherman, performed by Elena Ricardo. Their playful game of basketball is a clever way of bringing something original to the love story sub-plot. Perhaps it isn’t necessary to include so much detail about their marriage, Maude’s death, Naismith’s obsession with basketball damaging their relationship. There are some scenes that could do with cutting to maintain the pace and momentum of the musical, but the energy quickly bounces back.

Anthony Sagaria, as Jim Naismith, moves through time to come to terms with his feelings about basketball and the way the game developed. Sagaria is an excellent performer, bringing joy and character to his role. Instantly, we are on his side, rooting for him every step of the way. In fact, the entire cast comes together as a true ensemble: there is a warmth between them which carries out to the audience.

A superb band (Matthew A. Stephens, John Arbo, Brandon Ilaw) adds a dynamic mood throughout, and the cast, crew, and musicians work together to bring us this exciting production. Musicals in small theatre spaces are not always easy to produce, but The Perfect Game is definitely a success. A ‘slam-dunk’ new musical, indeed!