Living in New York City afford me many opportunities I did not have when I lived in Ohio, one of which is being able to check out fantastic Broadway shows.
Last Friday, I had the pleasure of taking in Magic/Bird.
If you are coming to NYC for a visit and would like to check out some light theater, Magic/Bird might be for you. If you are Celtics or Lakers, Bird or Magic fan or just a sports fan in general, you will likely enjoy this show.
The performances are very solid, believable and never phoney. The actors portraying Magic and Bird bring a human side to these giants of sports history.
Kevin Daniels gives a very even performance as Magic. He captures Johnson’s flamboyant personality but pulls the curtain back to show us that at his heart, Magic desperately wants everyone to like him. His desire to count Bird among his friends clashes nicely with his competitive desire to always win.
Tug Coker, who plays Bird, does a nice job bringing the gruff, everyman Bird to life on stage. You couldn’t have two men more externally different as your main characters. It’s basketball’s version of “The Odd Couple.”
Coker is always entertaining but his Bird schtick does grow a bit tiring. He has moments of emotional vulnerability but not nearly as many as Daniels, who is given much more to play with given the play starts with Magic’s announcement that he has HIV.
In the end, the people that brought you Lombardi put on a pleasant if not earth-shattering show. You’ll be amused for sure but you may find yourself leaving the theater wanting a bit more. There are moments where the script briefly touches on race issues, class issues and predicates that come along with an HIV diagnoses but it never does more than dip its toe in the water.
Playwright Eric Simonson misses a golden opportunity to tell a more poignant and dramatic story through two of the NBA’s greatest legends.
A lot of folks will likely enjoy Magic/Bird, however they are more likely to enjoy it the way one might enjoy a regular season game, rather than game seven of the NBA Finals.