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“Clemente: The Legend of 21” Review – Crowd Pleaser for Baseball Fans

By Amy Munice

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“Clemente:  The Legend of 21” tells the life story of Roberto Clemente, from his origins in the sugar cane fields of Puerto Rico to his untimely death while delivering relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.  Eventually winning the Most Valuable Player title and helping the Pittsburgh Pirates win the World Series, he is an icon in the Puerto Rican community to this day.  This is not just a play for diehard baseball fans, but also especially a theater event for Latino audiences that hunger for more of their personal narratives to be seen on Chicago stages.



Sentimentality feeds nearly every line of this play and if you do not feel that already for the subject matter you may be put off by the script.   The stronger voices in this ensemble seem to be in the supporting roles, with many of the leads either overpowered by the music or somewhat off key.  That said, Latin music lovers will certainly enjoy the lovely salsa, cumbia and other Latin rhythms of this musical.


Most of the first act and parts of the second are in Spanish with the English lines projected above as in an opera house.   This same overhead projection area is used to show footage and photo collages from Clemente’s time and is very effective.



A recurring theme of Clemente’s life and this play was the undercurrent of racism he had to contend with throughout. 



We see him randomly attacked by cops, sequestered in cockroach-ridden hotels far from his teammates, routinely mocked by ignorant and racist members of the press and store clerks alike.  We watch him roil with grief when Dr. Martin Luther King is struck down.    These are strong scenes but recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and beyond give them an especially contemporary resonance.


This is a good play to bring sports-enthused teens to. 


It is running through September 14 at Stage 773, 1225 West Belmont.


For information or tickets call 773 327 5252 or visit the Stage 773 website.




Photos:  Drew Peterson

Published on Sep 02, 2014

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