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Play Review: Lombardi on Broadway

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One thing I enjoy is to sneak off to the theater for a good show when I can. I had the pleasure to get tickets to a preview of Lombardi, which had its opening night last night at the Circle in the Square Theater on 50th street.

The theater itself is what is termed a theater in the round. In other words, there is stadium style seating. The theater is circled by seats, opposed to a set up like in a movie theater, where seats are lined up in rows looking to the stage in front. With this kind of a set up, there aren't any really elaborate sets or props. I found the story so engaging, though, that it doesn't matter.

The plot has a reporter, Michael McCormick, coming to Green Bay to spend a week with Lombardi to do a magazine feature on him. It takes you through a week of Green Bay's season and features flashbacks explaining how Lombardi got to where he is, the relationships he forged with three players, Paul Hornung, Dave Robinson, and Jim Taylor, and the toll his job took on his relationships at home. 

The dialogue is very witty, and the show is stolen to a degree by Judith Light, playing Lombardi's wife Marie, who has sarcastic one liners throughout the ninety minute performance. Lombardi himself is played by Dan Lauria. Depending on how old you are, you might remember him as Jack Arnold, the father on The Wonder Years. He turns in a top notch performance.

One thing that really impressed me was the subtle authenticity of the play.  An example is in discussing the Playoff Bowl, a consolation game the NFL used to hold between second place teams that Lombardi despised. Early in the play, Lombardi bemoans to McCormick that his Packers had to play in that game the year before. The story is based on David Maraniss' award winning book, When Pride Still Mattered.

I think the beauty of this play is that football fans looking to get a perspective on the history of the game can take a lot from it. Every great coach has one thing that made them stand out from Bill Walsh (offensive knowledge) to Bill Belichick (defensive knowledge) to Jimmy Johnson (player evaluation and development). Lombardi's expertise was motivation, and it shines through. Even so, a non football fan can enjoy the story of this coach.

I am not a bitter, snobbish theater critic so I might not be the right guy to ask. I think Broadway theater is a lot like pizza. It's tough to do it wrong. I think the guys who put this play together did it really, really, well. I'm seriously considering getting tickets for people I know as a holiday gift. Broadway tickets aren't cheap, but if you can afford it, I recommend going.