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Magic-Bird play opens in April in NYC; previews in March

By press release
Posted Jan 18 2012 2:25PM

Producers Fran Kirmser and Tony Ponturo announced Wednesday that the new play MAGIC/BIRD will open Wednesday, April 11, at the Longacre Theatre, 200 West 48th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue in New York City. Previews will begin Wednesday, March 21. Joining actors Kevin Daniels as Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Tug Coker as Larry Bird, will be Deirdre O'Connell as Georgia Bird/Shelly/Patricia Moore, Peter Scolari as Red Auerbach/Jerry Buss/Pat Riley, Rob Ray Manning Jr. as Michael Cooper/Henry Alvarado/Frank, and Francois Battiste as Jon Lennox/Ron Baxter/Willy.

As previously announced this new play reunites Lombardi's playwright Eric Simonson and director Thomas Kail and creative team David Korins (Set), Howell Binkley (Lighting), Paul Tazewell (Costumes), Nevin Steinberg (Sound). Wendall K Harrington (Projections) will weave historic NBA film footage throughout the play.

At the heart of one of the fiercest rivalries in sports, two of the greatest athletes of all-time battled for multiple championships and the future of their sport. Hall of Famers Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Larry Bird could not have been more different; one black, one white; one a quiet small town guy and the other an urbanite with a big smile and Hollywood appeal. Johnson and Bird went head to head, electrified the nation, reinvigorated the NBA and turned their rivalry into one of the greatest and most famous friendships in professional sports. With classic NBA footage prominently designed throughout, MAGIC/BIRD transports the audience into the heart of their matchup. From Draft to Olympic Dream Team, this new play was crafted through conversations with Magic and Bird. Running time 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Deirdre O'Connell: Her New York appearances include In The Wake at the Public Theater, for which she received a Los Angeles Ovation Award, The Richard Seff Actor's Equity Association Award, and a Lucille Lortel Award nomination, Circle Mirror Transformation at Playwrights Horizons (Obie Award and Drama Desk Award for Best Ensemble), Thinner than Water at Labyrinth, Cavedweller at New York Theater Workshop, Mud at Signature Theater, Manic Flight Reaction, Spatter Pattern at Playwrights Horizon, The Poor Itch at The Public Theater, Rag and Bone at Rattlestick Theater, Antigone at Classic Stage Company with Big Dance Theater, The Front Page at Lincoln Center, Two Headed at The Women's Project. In Los Angeles she played several seasons at the Los Angeles Theater Center which earned her three Dramalogue Awards and LA Critics Circle Award. Television series regular: LA Doctors, Second Noah, and Sirens. Guest star appearances: Law and Order, The Closer, and The Practice. Film appearances include: Pastime, for which she received an Independent Spirit Award nomination, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Second Hand Lions, State of Grace, and Fearless. 2005 recipient of an Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Performance.

Peter Scolari is a founding member of the Colonnades Theater Lab (NYC 1974-79, a Playwrights Theater, Artistic Director-Michael Lessac) where he appeared in 13 productions including Camille in A Flea in her Ear, title role in Warbeck, and originating the role of Charles Varlet de La Grange in Moliere in Spite of himself. Broadway: Hairspray, Sly Fox, and with New York City Center Encores!; Cole Porter's Out of This World, and the Ziegfeld Follies of 1937. TV Series: Henry Desmond in Bosom Buddies, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, Michael Harris on Newhart, thrice Emmy nominated, one win, consecutive American Comedy Award honors. Additionally played Pete Conrad in the Emmy Award winning HBO mini-series From The Earth to the Moon. Selected TV: The West Wing, ER, Family Ties, The Drew Carey Show, The Nanny, King of Queens, Reba, Ally McBeal. Telefilms: The Ryan White Story, and Littlechap in Showtime's Stop the World, I want to Get Off. Feature films: The Polar Express, That Thing You Do, Tin Men, The Suburban Girl. A winner of the Berkshires Theater Festival's Best Actor Award for his work in The Foreigner.

Robert Ray Manning Jr. is a graduate of the University of Washington's Professional Acting Training Program, where he received his MFA in acting. Recent guest and co-star credits include: Southland, South of Nowhere, The Unit, Criminal Minds, and the soon to be released film: Frogtown, and Burt Wonderstone starring Jim Carrey and Steve Carell. Robert has performed in regional theaters across the country portraying such roles as Cassio in Othello, Banquo in Macbeth and Capt. Lee King in the Pasadena Playhouse production of John Patrick Shanley's play Defiance in which he received a 2008 NAACP Theatre Award Nomination in the Best Lead Actor Category. He received a 2010 NAACP Theatre Award Nomination in the Best Supporting Category for his role in Battle Hymn. Robert recently completed the hit run of Pasadena Playhouse's production of Blues for an Alabama Sky directed by Sheldon Epps.

Francois Battiste Broadway: Prelude to a Kiss (Dan Sullivan dir., Roundabout Theatre). Off Broadway: Merchant of Venice (Dan Sullivan dir.) The Winter's Tale (Michael Grief, dir.) -(Shakespeare in the Park, Public Theatre), Broke-ology (Audelco Nomination, Tommy Kail dir., Lincoln Center Theatre), The Good Negro (The Public Theater, Obie Award for Performance, Lucile Lortel Award Nomination, Audelco Nomination), Ten Things to Do Before I Die (Second Stage Theatre). Regional credits include: Williamstown, Sundance Theatre Lab, Chicago Shakespeare, The Goodman, Lookingglass Theatre. TV: Person of Interest, The Good Wife, Are We There Yet?. Film: Delivering the Good, Blood in the Sand (Dir. Sam Gold), 51/50, One Week. Upcoming 2012: Men in Black III, Repatriate. Education: (BS) Illinois State University Training: BADA at Oxford University, The Juilliard School.

The Longacre Theatre was built in 1913 by H. H. Frazee, a Producer/Manager who was the owner of the Boston Red Sox and the individual who sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. He later sold the theater to The Shuberts in 1919.

This is the second original project commissioned by Kirmser and Ponturo. Together they share a common vision of bringing new, original plays to a wide, diverse audience of theatergoers, initially combining the drama of sports and entertainment through Kirmser Ponturo Group. Lombardi, and now MAGIC/BIRD are the first two products of that vision.

American Express Pre-Sale for MAGIC/BIRD running now through Tuesday, January 31. For tickets call 212 239 6200 or visit

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