“It was written by a local guy. Daniel Sonenberg, a jazz drummer who became obsessed with Josh’s story,” he said. “Why did he miss the boat? Why wasn’t he—the greatest homerun hitter ever, the only guy, it’s said, who ever hit a ball out of the old Yankee Stadium—Why wasn’t he Jackie Robinson?”
Luckily, thanks to the Josh Gibson Foundation, and the photographs of Charles “Teenie” Harris, the opera has a wealth of imagery and family history to draw on. Hahn also acknowledged the Courier as part of that history, and noted that one of the principal characters in the Opera is Courier sports reporter Wendell Smith.
In addition to Smith and Gibson, other historical characters in the production include Cool Papa Bell, Sam Bankhead, Gus Greenlee, and Helen Gibson.
And in a special Pittsburgh touch, a scene that takes place in the Crawford Grill will include cameo appearances by Pittsburgh Pirate World Series winners Al Oliver and Manny Sanquillen, and Pittsburgh Steeler Super Bowl winners Franco Harris and Rocky Blier.
“In addition to the cast, there are original sets, costumes, a 60-piece orchestra and a large chorus that bring this colorful, vibrant world to life, which is why the World premiere will cost us about $1.8 million,” he said. “It’s a massive challenge and we’re only having four performances—one, though is a matinee and we’ll be bringing in school kids for that. So we’ll have hundreds of screaming children learning about what happened just up the street.”
The dates for The Summer King are April 29, May 2, 5, and 7. All performances are at the Benedum Center. Tickets start at $12. For more information visit http://www.pittsburghopera.org or call 412-456-6666.
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