Produced in association with the NFL. Now there’s an eye catcher for this new play “Lombardi” by Eric Simonson that has recently opened at Circle in the Square that has been transformed into a sports friendly arena for this winning event by designers David Korins (set) and Howell Binkley (lights).
Is it only for football fans? Not at all. It’s for everyone interested in a strong story with great actors portraying multi dimensional characters that illuminate the life of one of the greatest football coaches ever – Vince Lombardi (an amazing look alike Dan Lauria who gives a commanding performance that wins us over completely). In fact, he could have been a banker and the story would have been just as intriguing. In fact, he was a banker before being chosen to be head coach for the losing Packers.
Based on a book by David Maraniss, Lombardi is about a man and his passion. His passion for the game. His passion for his players to win and most importantly the passion (which is palpable) that he shares with his transplanted to Wisconsin from New York wife – the elegant, wry, martini swilling and very supportive Marie (a pitch perfect Judith Light).
Director Thomas Kail has brought together an A Team worthy of the famous and rather infamous coach of the Green Bay Packers – who was famously quoted for his theory about winning – “Winning isn’t everything – it’s the only thing.” Even though he didn’t originate the quote. That’s just one of the gems to be unearthed in this very amusing and appealing ninety minute docu-drama about the man behind the men and the woman behind that man.
Reporter Michael McCormick (an impressive Keith Nobbs) has been sent by Look Magazine to interview Lombardi for an up close and in depth article for its readers. He’s been OK’d because Lombardi knew the guys dad and respected him. In addition McCormick knows his facts well enough to take the old bull dog by surprise.
In flashback and with McCormick narrating we see the real man behind the team (in all his glorified temper) and three of his star players – the dim witted Jim (Chris Sullivan) the party loving and injured Paul (Bill Dawes) and the Afro-American Dave Robinson (Robert Christopher Riley) who gains enough confidence to form a players union.
Great use has been made of the difficult to stage a play in the Circle in the Square space. Fluid and sharp direction with the use of video screens and projections add to the sports like atmosphere.
But it is the story, the writing with each word being chosen with extreme care and the ace acting from all that take top honors. This may be football season but Lombardi is the play by play to see.
www.lombardibroadway.com Photo: Joan Marcus