Last night, I attended the opening of the new show "The Auerbach Dynasty", now playing at the Park Theater in Cranston, RI through May 1. I attended as a guest of writer/director Ken Dooley, whom KWAPT interviewed about a month ago.
The casts consists of exactly one character: Red Auerbach. Played by actor Jeff Gill, Red spends about two hours (over two acts) telling life stories to the audience as if we were all gathered in his living room. The set was simple: a chair and end table on one side… a bench with a basketball in the middle, and a table on the other side. Red would alternately take turns sitting or standing at each spot, telling his stories, as supporting photos from Red's life and Celtics history occasionally flashed on a large screen behind him.
For an ardent Celtics fan, the first thing you might notice is Mr. Gill's vocal quality, attempt at Red's accent, and stature made him more suitable to play Tommy Heinsohn than Red Auerbach. But for the casual fan, it's a little easier to accept that Red is standing in front of you in his tan blazer, striped tie, and cigar in hand.
Red's first story is about that cigar… and how it wasn't even something he started to celebrate a win. It was started to "piss off" then commissioner Maurice Podoloff… who had allowed other coaches to smoke cigarettes on the bench. Then, Red used it as a motivational tool as players didn't want to blow a lead once Red had lit the victory cigar.
As Red shifts from topic to topic, he reads quotes related to the transition from a piece of paper. Red says the quotes mostly came from fortune cookies… since he ate a lot of Chinese food. "Easy to digest" he said.
I, as an infatuated Celtics fan, knew a lot of the stories that were told. The stories of Red's early life had some details I didn't know, but once he transitioned into his time with Boston, I knew where the stories were going. But that didn't make them less interesting. There were nuances and details that were new to me. My favorite is the story of the trade for Bill Russell.
The Celtics traded Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan to St. Louis for the second pick of the 1956 draft. The story as everyone knows it is that they went for the second pick because they knew Rochester, owners of the first pick, were looking for a a guard and also didn't want to pay Bill Russell a $25,000 signing bonus. But Red's story adds the bit about then Celtics owner Walter Brown making sure Rochester didn't pick Russell. Brown had the Ice Capades playing in Boston… and Rochester's owner wanted them there. So Brown gave up the Ice Capades for two weeks a year… in exchange for the promise by Rochester not to select Bill Russell.
The show's execution was a little rocky, which can be attributed to some opening night glitches. There were times where Red would look up at the screen to look at a picture and none would be there. There were times where the pictures would flash, but then not actually get referenced until a minute or two later. So there was a timing issue. But it was a minor thing that is easily corrected.
Ultimately, this was an entertaining show that Celtics fans would enjoy. I'd especially recommend this to younger Celtics fans as a bit of a history lesson. This is a great chance to hear Red's own stories and learn what made the Celtics so great. You'll see quickly why we chose to name our site after him.
You can follow this link to buy tickets. Tickets are $35, but Red's Army readers can use the code bcseason to get 25% off.