Where were you when the Cubs clinched their first World Series in 108 years? Were you with family or with friends? Were you packed into a sports bar or a living room or were you just checking the score on your phone?
And when Kris Bryant fielded that dribbling little grounder from Michael Martinez and tossed it to Anthony Rizzo for the final out — what exactly did you feel? Was it joy? Relief? Were you sad that some beloved relative hadn’t lived to see this day? Maybe you were concerned that joyous Cubs fans might actually burn Wrigleyville to the ground.
Heck, maybe you were a Sox fan, and it was just a Wednesday.
Well, wherever you were and whatever you felt, the new musical “Miracle,” now playing at the Royal George Theatre, will ensure that you relive the moment in excruciating detail. In chronicling the trials and travails of a Cubs-loving family during that fateful 2016 season, “Miracle” does a dare-I-say miraculous job of re-creating the tension-filled arc of that Game 7, with the denizens of Maggie’s Place, the show’s fictional Wrigleyville watering hole, taking every twist and turn like a Mack truck to the chest.
In fact, footage from the game itself plays a key part in that sequence and Mike Tutaj’s stellar projections make liberal use of such clips throughout the show. (Don’t worry, the producers have indeed obtained the express written consent of Major League Baseball.)
And although “Miracle” isn’t so successful in other arenas — Jason Brett’s dialogue, for one, is just a hair above the Mendoza Line — the show still comfortably pulls out the win. Michael Mahler’s music is rousing, yet playful, while his lyrics contain just the right balance of genuine pathos and goofy self-effacement. And under the direction of Damon Kiely, this utterly superlative cast knocks it out of the park.
As the owner of Maggie’s Place, which he inherited from dearly departed mother, Charlie (Brandon Dahlquist) is an ex-pitcher turned barkeep and landlord who doesn’t want his young daughter Dani (Elise Wolf, alternating in the role with Amaris Sanchez) to follow in his footsteps. Charlie starts by renouncing his Cubs fandom and continues by listening to the entreaties of Michael Kingston’s sleazy local developer to buy Maggie’s Place and tear it down.
With a tax lien looming over the property and his wife Sofia (Allison Sill) driving for Uber to supplement her teacher’s salary, Charlie is entranced by the idea of starting over — even if it means disappointing or screwing over pretty much everyone else in his life, like his pals Larry (Jonathan Butler-Duplessis), Weslowski (Kingston) and Babs (Veronica Garza).
Dani, meanwhile, continues living the life of a Cubs diehard, even skipping out on tutoring sessions to go sit in the Wrigley Field bleachers with her cantankerous grandpa, Pops (Gene Weygandt). It’s these three generations of Delaneys that form the backbone of ‘Miracle’, with Charlie trying to navigate the straits between Dani’s boundless optimism and Pops’ stubborn refusal to change. Is keeping Maggie’s Place afloat really Charlie’s responsibility, or is it a burden that he’s been unfairly saddled with? As is true with many heritages, the answer is: It’s a little bit of both.
“Miracle” relies a bit too much on the sizable charms and talents of its performers, and you can feel them pushing in many spots to sell the material. Still, a sale is a sale, and they close the deal. And while the show also leans heavily on Cubs nostalgia, it does so honestly. In addition to Mahler’s songs, “Miracle” features a stirring tribute to Harry Caray titled “The Voice Above the Crowd” (music by Larry Novack, lyrics by Julian and Rhona Frazin), that mashes all the right emotional buttons.
The producers of “Miracle,” led by former Illinois State Senator William Marovitz, have succeeded in creating a show that speaks directly to Chicago audiences — or at least, the Cubbie half of them. It won’t be going to Broadway, and it almost certainly won’t be going on tour. But it doesn’t need to. Like the Delaneys, its home is here. And if it ends up pulling in a few diehard Cubs fans who wouldn’t otherwise be caught dead going to see an Off-Loop musical? Call it what it is: a miracle.
Alex Huntsberger is a local freelance writer.