For those who might imagine that baseball and Broadway exist on opposite sides of the spectrum, meet Neil Berg. A college all-star in his 20s, this East Coast boy has since gone on to pen numerous musicals. Best-known for “The Prince and the Pauper” and the upcoming “Grumpy Old Men” he comes to The Granada with a musical revue bearing his name, “Neil Berg’s 101 Years of Broadway.”
Really, Berg says, the distance from the lessons learned on the baseball diamond and what one needs to succeed on the Great White Way is not far. “Because I had a regular-guy perspective,” he says. “Not a theater world perspective, I wanted to make a show that people like my mom would appreciate.”
The evening of “101 Years” is a sequel of sorts to “100 Years,” produced six (not one) years ago and follows the same schematic. Berg, on piano, tells the stories behind some of Broadway’s biggest musicals over the years and, along with a small band, introduces five vocalists — some reprising the roles that made them famous — to sing selections from “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Misérables,” “Evita,” “CATS,” “Wonderful Town,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” The list goes on ? as much as it changes.
Past guests have included Ben Vereen and Bernadette Peters, and The Granada is listing Saturday’s performers as Craig Schulman, Carter, Lawrence Clayton, Andrea Rivette and Brad Little.
Berg’s story is one of dramatic shifts in purpose. His parents would have loved him to be a lawyer. His coach would have loved him to be a major leaguer. But Berg had both a knack for music and a love for storytelling. In his senior year he wound up writing a musical, called “Ghost Story.” Opening night changed his life.
“I sat there, weeping, by myself, alone, after it was over,” he says. “I couldn’t believe the joy that I got from all those loves converging and that I had such a hand in creating something new. When I realized that, that was it, I turned all my passion, all my energy into writing musicals and learning my craft.”
Berg studied under Robert Printz and Sue Peters and attended the BMI Musical Writer’s Workshop. His first musical break was in 2002 with “The Prince and the Pauper,” a new adaptation of the Mark Twain classic that ran for a year at the since-shuttered Lamb’s Theater in New York.
Berg has more on his résumé, all in various stages of development, but it turns out to be the work he was doing for free for years that has brought him on tour.
“100 Years” started off as an event Berg put on for nonprofits and charities, with Berg working gratis. But that paid off when the corporate world took notice and booked the same show. According to Berg, the show went from 10 shows a year to over 100. For somebody who wanted to work behind the scenes writing and composing, Berg spends an awful lot of time onstage these days.
But that’s OK, Berg says, it’s all part of a work ethic he got from both his parents.
“There might be people better than me,” he adds. “But I won’t be outworked.”
‘NEIL BERG’S 101 YEARS OF BROADWAY’
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Granada, 1214 State St.
Cost: $30 to $50
Information: (805) 899-2222 or granadasb.org