PITTSBURGH — André De Shields is a Broadway legend, a Tony Award winner and an accomplished actor with a career spanning five decades. Still, he says, he got a little nervous when he heard the voices of Steven Brault and Josh Bell.
“I’m going to have to watch my back now,” De Shields said. “I don’t play professional baseball, but they’re coming up into my territory now.”
De Shields and the cast of the popular musical "Hadestown" teamed up with Bell and Brault, the Pirates pitcher who recorded his own album of Broadway covers earlier this year, to release two videos celebrating the return of baseball this summer and eagerly anticipating the return of Broadway next year.
"Hadestown" composer Anaïs Mitchell tweaked the lyrics to “Wait For Me” from the musical, as well as “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” adding lyrics to describe how fans have waited for both baseball and Broadway shows during the coronavirus pandemic. Much like Major League Baseball games, Broadway theaters were shut down on March 12 due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
The crossover video for “Wait For Me” features Brault and Reeve Carney sharing the role of Orpheus while Bell, Pittsburgh’s All-Star first baseman, who has a cameo on Brault’s album, shares the role of Hermes with De Shields. They’re joined by Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer and Kay Trinidad, the Hadestown Fates, with some of the original lyrics altered to reflect months of living in quarantine.
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So excited to announce this crossover project between #Broadway And #MLB! During this quarantine we partnered with the amazing cast and band of @hadestown to make our own version of Wait For Me and Take Me Out to the Ballgame! So many awesome guests and singers and musicians and then @bell.josh19 who I dragged into this whole thing. Thank you Anais so much for putting this together you’re incredible! Stay safe and everything will be back soon!
“Ain’t no ballgame, brother,” Bell says before De Shields echoes, “Ain’t no show.” Then together they finish, “Just another homemade home video.”
“I think Josh did great. It’s so funny to me, because I know Josh didn’t expect to be doing anything like this, that’s for sure. It’s just really cool that he’s so open to doing it,” Brault said. “It was another one of those things where I asked him to do it, and he was all about it.”
“I think it’s beautiful,” De Shields added. “The idea that these professions can now cross-pollinate one another, I think that’s part of the new world that we’re creating in this COVID-19 culture, where everything seems to have been brought to a stop. … One eye can be on your profession, but the other eye has to be on progressing the culture, I think.”
During a Zoom conversation with De Shields, Brault learned that they had a few things in common. For one, they were both once involved in a production of “Damn Yankees” — Brault in high school as Joe Hardy, De Shields in a regional production as Mr. Applegate. De Shields says he is also “probably cousins removed five times” with the Indians' Delino DeShields, giving them a baseball connection.
“It was meant to happen, obviously, because there was all that intrinsic information waiting to be mined,” De Shields said.
“I just think it’s really cool and it’s really fun to talk about any overlap in our careers,” Brault added. “I wouldn’t say [I was] starstruck as much as, ‘Oh my gosh, I just watched their [NPR Tiny Desk concert] and now I’m talking to this guy on a Zoom call. That’s pretty cool.’”
Who says you can't bring Broadway and @MLB together? Join members of the cast of #Hadestown alongside @Pirates pitcher @SquidBrault and other MLB superstars, for a Broadway-rendition of "Take Me Out To The Ball Game"! ⚾️🎭 pic.twitter.com/ejmUA5wzuq
— Hadestown (@hadestown) June 30, 2020
Brault said that Mitchell approached his representatives to ask if he’d be interested in recording something with the "Hadestown" cast. Apparently, Brault’s album, “A Pitch at Broadway” — and specifically, his cover of “Wait For Me” — caught Mitchell’s attention. It was high praise coming from the composer of a show that won eight Tony Awards in 2019, including Best Musical.
“Which is really cool to think, that she’d actually heard about it,” Brault said. “So she came up with the idea of doing ‘Wait For Me’ with the lyrics a little bit different for the quarantine, then also ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ where the second verse is ‘Take Me Out to Broadway.’ … The fact that it came to fruition where something actually happened out of it is pretty sweet.”
So Brault and producer Loren Harriet recruited Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, former Yankee (and fellow recording artist) Bernie Williams and former All-Star Nick Swisher, along with Sharon Robinson, Jackie’s daughter, to help with a new version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Mitchell once again adjusted the lyrics, and the "Hadestown" band provided backing music, and she joined De Shields, Carney, Blackman, Gonzalez-Nacer and Trinidad in singing the new second verse.
After Williams’ guitar solo, they all come together to sing, “And it’s one, two, we really miss you at the old ballgame — and on Broadway.”
“I love it. It’s so good,” Brault said. “There’s a little thing at the very end where the drummer from the 'Hadestown' band [Benjamin Perowsky] is hitting the cymbal with a Wiffle ball bat. It’s amazing.”