Comic actor Fred Willard said today baseball fans who have not been able to watch a Dodger game on TV can get a taste of America’s national pastime from "Baseball Swing," a jazz concert opening Friday.
The concert, featuring a quartet of singers and a nine-piece jazz band performing such baseball-related songs as "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," runs Friday through Sunday at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd. in Beverly Hills.
"Who knows, has the season started or not? I don’t know. No one is quite sure because you can’t see it on TV, but it is starting here at the Annenberg," Willard said, referring to the two-thirds of Angelenos who are unable to watch Dodger games.
All but a handful of games are being broadcast on SportsNet LA, which few television providers carry other than Time Warner Cable.
Willard, who plays an announcer in the production, said he’s a longtime baseball fan.
"Baseball has changed and has become a bigger money-making thing," Willard said. "I kind of wish it would go back a little more to the old days when it was just pure baseball."
Willard said the first few days of rehearsal he was craning his neck to see the more than 2,000 images and video from the Baseball Hall of Fame that are projected as part of the concert.
"It’s great nostalgia," said Willard, who has dozens of film and television credits, including his recurring role as the father of Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) on ABC’s "Modern Family" and the two "Anchorman" movies.
The concert also stars Adrian Zmed, Terri White, Terron Brooks and Angela Pupello. It is directed by Coy Middlebrook.
Even those who don’t love baseball will enjoy the show due to the singing and dancing, according to Willard.
"’Baseball Swing’ is a weekend of concerts for the whole family to have fun and celebrate the great American pastime," said Lou Moore, the center’s executive director.
"I was amazed to find that there are hundreds of songs written over the past decades about baseball and a few of the sport’s greatest players and we are happy to share a few of them with our audiences."
The concert is co-produced and co-commissioned by the Baseball Hall of Fame, which is marking its 75th anniversary this year with various special events throughout the nation, and the Baseball Music Project, founded by a group of professional musicians who are passionate baseball fans and seek to foster greater awareness of the cultural lineage and historical significance of music written about baseball.
Tickets range from $30 to $55 and can be purchased at thewallis.org or by calling (310) 746-4000.
–City News Service