'Bleacher Bums' relaunches at Chicago theater, opens Thursday

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'Bleacher Bums' opens Thursday at the Open Space Theater in the Lakeview neighborhood. (WLS)

Cubs fever has taken over, even at a Chicago theater where the classic "Bleacher Bums" show is getting a makeover.

It's been nearly 40 years since the show first hit the stage and a relaunch opens Thursday. A new production has been mounted by Open Space Theater in the city's Lakeview neighborhood, merely a mile from the Friendly Confines.

Even the self-proclaimed 80-year-old fan known as "Bleacher Preacher" is on board to help keep it real.

"We've been knows as the loveable losers. There's hope at the end of the play, we're probably going to have to rewrite the play to become loveable winners," said Jerry Pritikin, the "Bleacher Preacher."

The original "Bleacher Bums" was created, performed and set in 1977. The new production has a new roster.

"The players' names are all updated to the 1998 rosters of both the Cubs and the Cardinals, so baseball fans will remember that summer as the summer of Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire and the race to smash Maris' home run record," said Nich Radcliff, director.

The play follows several die-hard Cubs fans as they kibitz and place bets with one another during a game with St. Louis. This production casts one actor with his character's actual disability -- blindness.

"It's pretty special knowing that, in some respects, I'm a groundbreaking person playing a fascinating role," said Israel Antonio, who plays the blind character, Greg.

Originally, Organic Theater member Joe Mantegna - now on TV's "Criminal Minds - co-wrote the play and starred. Also onstage was Dennis Franz, formerly of "NYPD Blue."

The show was made into a movie and numerous productions still crop up all around the country.

"This show is about betting," he said. "You can bet on the Cubs this year."

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entertainmenttheaterChicago CubsChicago - LakeviewChicago - Wrigleyville
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