Albom’s ‘Ernie’ a beautiful tribute
By Robert Delaney
Legendary Detroit Tigers sportscaster Ernie Harwell shares the story of his life with a mysterious young fan in Mitch Albom’s Ernie, now in its world-premiere run at the City Theatre in downtown Detroit.
It was the late “Voice of Summer” himself who once suggested to Albom that a play might be developed about his 60-some years in baseball. And although the great play-by-play announcer’s failing health scotched the original plan for them to work on the project together, Albom took on the project by himself after Harwell’s death.
The result is a beautiful tribute to its subject and a very entertaining evening of theater.
Having seen two previous plays by Albom, I figured Ernie would be good, but I was still wowed by just how good it is. He has done a terrific job of weaving Harwell’s anecdotes into a captivating stage presentation.
And under the direction of Tony Caselli, Will David Young as Ernie Harwell and Timothy “TJ” Corbett, along with the show’s set, costume and technical designers, have given us a superbly professional and polished production.
Young’s portrayal is a remarkable re-creation of the Harwell we all remember so fondly. And Corbett’s youthful looks and demeanor make for a highly believable young fan (whereas, in fact, the actor is the father of a young son himself).
Besides the live action on the stage, we hear some of Harwell’s famous calls and see old photos and video clips projected on a screen, thanks to sound designer Steve Shannon and video designer Alison Dobbins.
Kirk Domer’s set design Daniel C. Walker’s lighting design and Melanie Schuessler’s costumes also contribute mightily to the high professional quality of the production.
Ernie Harwell did a lot of public speaking and wrote a book about his life, so there’s a good chance many playgoers will have heard some of these stories before. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll enjoy hearing them again as much as learning new things about the great radio voice of Tigers baseball.