Safe at Home: The Jackie Robinson Story
Jackie Robinson’s life is the perfect subject matter for a thought-provoking yet entertaining children’s-theater offering. The story of the first black major-league baseball player speaks to history, to perseverance, to spirit and, most of all, to a singular passion. For Robinson, this passion was baseball.Though this sounds lofty, kids have an innate understanding of fairness, gamesmanship and determination—all of which are embodied in Robinson’s story. They also understand baseball, including all the unwritten rules learned at the playground level.
The Children’s Theatre of California commissioned local playwright Anthony D’Juan, best known for his productions with the Martin Luther King Jr. Theatre Project, to tell the story of the man who broke sports’ color barrier. Although the basic storyline is captured, the musical doesn’t really connect. There are elements that stand out: an engaging performance by Stephen Lamar as Robinson, the playwright’s clear love of baseball and a well-captured sense of place and time.
However, D’Juan lobs softballs by turning the story into a musical, with songs and perky dancing that distract from the story rather than propelling it forward. He also forgets the old writing adage of “show, don’t tell.” Most of the facts are narrated rather than illustrated. Still, all the elements are there for an entertaining and educational children’s play. With some reworking, D’Juan may just end up with a home run.