Thursday, December 16, 2010

LOMBARDI on Broadway - A Review

Vincent Lombardi - Dan Lauria
Michael McCormick - Keith Nobbs
Marie Lombardi - Judith Light
Dave Robinson - Robert Christopher Riley
Paul Hornung - Bill Dawes
Jim Taylor - Chris Sullivan

Have I ever mentioned my strange love of football movies? No? Oh, well...I have a strange love for football are some of my faves...

Remember the Titans
Friday Night Lights
We Are Marshall
Blind Side

I could go on and on but I won't bore get my point. :)

You're asking yourself now, "Is she a big football fan?" Nope. I enjoy watching college football with my friends or my dad (and yes, he and I scream at the TV together) and pro football when I have to with my guy pals...but I don't tend to watch on my own. But football movies? SUCKER FOR THEM!

Hell, I love sports movies a lot too...and I suck at most sports so...maybe it comes down to the fact that I wish that I'd been good at just one sport! Okay, I kick ass at badminton but really...should I really admit to that? Oh wait...I just did...

Anyhoo...on to the point of my post...

Last night my pal Seth returned a favor. I took him with me to Shakespeare in the Park this year for Winters Tale and he got free tickets to Lombardi, put on by Circle In The Square, and POOF! I got to go! This play hadn't even been on my radar to see but I'm SO happy I got to go!

As many of you know, Vincent Lombardi is one of the most celebrated football coaches of all time who unfortunately died at the early age of 57 from colon cancer. The play, LOMBARDI, is based on a book written by David Maraniss called "When Pride Still Mattered; A Life of Vince Lombardi". The play primarily spans a week in November, 1965 in Green Bay, WI. It is the week that Michael McCormick arrives in Wisconsin to stay with Mr. Lombardi so as to do an article for "LOOK" magazine (which, btw, never printed his article, feeling it was too artsy an article with not enough football).

There are flashbacks throughout the play to 1958, 1959 and 1964 as well as we learn how Vince almost became a banker instead of a football coach, how he took over the Green Bay Packers, and what made him tick...what made them win. We also get a really wonderful inside view of his relationship with his wife (played magestically by Judith Light). Judith and Dan make an amazing team on stage. With timing that can't be taught---you either have it or you don't. They do.

Dan Lauria's portrayal of Vince is so incredibly believable, solid and powerful you would swear he'd met the man! Keith Nobbs who plays the reporter is your narrator throughout the piece as well as performing inside the story itself which takes great timing, total commitment to dialogue and movement, and the ability to switch gears as fast as you can turn on a light switch. He does this with ease and satin smoothness so you never feel jerked around inside the story. That is also a big props to the writing as the way.

The cast is only six people---though, to be honest, it felt like more. The other three characters are the three football players who are the keyhole we get to peak through to learn a little about who Lombardi really he loves his he loves the game...and so on. All three of these men were fantastic but I won't lie, Robert Christopher Riley (who plays Dave Robinson) truly stands out of the three as exceptional! He's not only a joy to watch but captivates your attention anytime he speaks with a full commitment between body and dialogue. Not that the other two didn't carry their weight but Robert, to me, stuck out in a good way.

Before I forget, I want to give props to the designers of this show. The lights and multi-media especially with a definite nod to set design. The stage is a blank rounded-off-at-the-corners rectangle that stays bare except for when you're in Vince's home or office or the bar the players hang out in. All set pieces come up from the floor and then slink back down and disappear when not needed. The living room piece for Vince's home spins so that when they do sit down to do a scene it can move around so the audience (which is on all sides as the play is produced in the round) all get a chance to watch it from each angle. It's brilliant! But then again, I love a minimalistic set as much as I love an intricate set...if it transports you to where you need to be to be enveloped by the show, then its fantastic...and this one was just that.

The lights...and bajesus they have a lot of them...including ones that look like football stadium lights on all four corners...are brilliant (pun intended). Here's a shot of the ceiling above the performance space...the tech geek in me was like, "Weeee!" :

What you can't see here is that there were long, rectangular screens that came down on the two longer sides of the set over the audience that showed video AND they also did that on the large floor. They actually had footage of the games mentioned in the story and you got to watch them clear as day...on the floor of the set. Just a brilliant way to still show the game for stage. I wouldn't be suprised to see this become a made-for-TV movie at's all prepped and ready for it if you ask me.

But, I feel lucky to have seen it live. It was a beautiful story that holds your attention (without an intermission mind you) for the duration and you never stop basking in the fantastic writing, the amazing performances, and the awe inspiring set/lights. For awhile you get transported to Green Bay, hang out with one of the greatest men in football. Not a bad way to spend a night if you ask me.

If it wasn't on your radar either...put it there! Get out and see this show before its gone.

Stay warm New Yorkers...stay warm!

Tamsin :)

P.S. If you click on the title of the blog you will find the official Broadway page for the play. If you click on the LOMBARDI link highlighted in a purplish color above it will take you to some clips from the play that were filmed. ENJOY!

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