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Thursday, 04 November 2010 23:34

Broadway Review: LOMBARDI

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Dan Lauria as Vince Lombardi in Lombardi Dan Lauria as Vince Lombardi in Lombardi Photo: Joan Marcus

There is definitely an audience for the new play, Lombardi and I don’t mean that pejoratively in the least.  Eric Simonson’s script is a fine vehicle to tell the story of Vince Lombardi... the football coach.

Lombardi is based on an amalgam of two projects by W. C. Heinz who was originally commissioned to write a biography about Vince Lombardi.  He found Lombardi a tough nut to crack and the project never went forward.  After rethinking the idea from a different angle, Heinz decided to follow Lombardi for a week leading up to a big game and wrote the book “Run to Daylight” about that experience.  The problem with Lombardi is that we learn about Vince Lombardi the football coach but we don’t learn much about Vince Lombardi the person.  Lombardi’s elusiveness is just as much of a problem here as it was to Heinz when trying to write the biography.

What we learn about Lombardi we learn from his wife, Marie.  She describes his priorities: “God, family and the Green Bay Packers are the three most important things in his life. But not necessarily in that order.”  She continues “In fact, I’d put his family a distant third and God doesn’t rank number one, so.”

Dan Lauria is spot-on as Lombardi.  He looks like him, talks like him and walks like him.  As his wife Marie, Judith Light is dry and funny.  Unfortunately, Lauria’s and Light’s characters are really just caricatures that lack depth.  Football players Dave Robinson, Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor are played with bravado by Robert Christopher Riley, Bill Dawes and Chris Sullivan respectively. Sullivan stands out on two counts.  He is the only one of the three who could conceivably be a football player (from a sheer size perspective) and his performance was a stand-out as the quiet but simmering Taylor.

The skeleton upon which the meager meat of this play hangs revolves around much the same premise as “Run to Daylight.”  We see a reporter who has arrived in Green Bay, Wisconsin to stay with Coach Lombardi for a week leading up to a game.  Keith Nobbs is reporter Michael McCormick. He’s young, brash and looks all of 10.  Nobbs’ performance is energetic, honest and funny.  His impersonation of Lombardi as a bank officer offering a loan is priceless (see video below).  

Director Thomas Kail, a Tony nominee for In the Heights, keeps the play moving briskly along and has handled the theatre-in-the-round seating configuration without leaving the audience feeling they missed something.  He utilizes David Korins’s living room set, which appears through a trap door in the floor, to great effect.  Kail and lighting designer Howell Binkley create a sleek flash-back moment by turning the set a quarter turn. Costume designer Paul Tazewell’s dresses for Marie are stunning.  

The football crowd will enjoy Lombardi.  I’m not sure it will be enough to satisfy your more high-brow Broadway audience.  But that’s OK.  The more we can get folks into theatre for any reason, the better off we’ll all be.

Additional Info

  • Theatre: Circle in the Square
  • Theatre Address: 1633 Broadway New York, NY 10019
  • Show Style: Play
Last modified on Friday, 05 November 2010 21:30