The makers of Lombardi on Broadway have some serious credentials: they are winners of Pulitzer Prizes, Academy Awards, Tony Awards and Emmy Awards, all with the financial and marketing muscle of the NFL behind them. Suffice to say, my expectations were pretty high.
As I took my seat to watch the production of “Lombardi” on Broadway, I was struck by just how small the stage is. The set is a “theater-in-the-round” design, but the stage can’t be much more than 12 yards in diameter. “This is really going to be intimate”, was my first thought.
It was also going to be very different for me. I’ve seen my share of Broadway plays (one of the perks of living where I do), but I’ve never seen a play that wasn’t a comedy or musical production, usually with elaborate sets and/or costume design. Looking at a bare stage, I wonder if this is going to be far too serious for my taste, like Lombardi with a Shakespearean bent.
And the audience was also very different than what you’ll normally see at a Broadway play. A majority of the audience were 40+ males, with wives seemingly being dragged along, as mine was, today. At most Broadway plays, the opposite is the norm.
Let me first say that I enjoyed Lombardi on Broadway. At the same time, I would say that “different” is certainly the operative word for this play. “Lombardi” is not a play that would normally see the light of day on the Great White Way. A show of this type is all about the writing and the acting. Both have to be outstanding to capture your attention and keep you captivated for 90+ minutes. Unfortunately, they both fell a little short for me.
Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I fully expected to be mesmerized by a fantastic display of theater melded with the world of sports. Alas, I often found the story a bit weak and the dialogue lacking, focusing on trivial conversations that didn’t contribute much substance to the story.
I had hoped for the plot to delve deep into Lombardi, the man, and reveal for us what the factors were that drove him to his single-minded passion for success. The story instead looks mostly at Lombardi’s relationships with the other play’s characters, a reporter, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Dave Robinson and his wife, Marie. It does this well, clearly displaying the love-hate emotions others had for him.
Dan Lauria does a good job in his role as Lombardi, but I can’t say he knocked the ball out of the park. In person, he looks much less like Lombardi than his press photos, not that it really matters. However, I was hoping for Lauria to convince me that he WAS Lombardi. I wanted to close my eyes and feel I was listening to Vince, himself. That didn’t happen.
The star of the show, in my opinion, was Judith Light. As Marie Lombardi, Light had some of the best lines of the entire show, including all the most humorous ones, delivered with a dead-pan delivery and often laced with sarcasm. She played the role of a neglected 1960s housewife perfectly, especially one from NJ (before NJ housewives became famous).
The other actors were all believable in their roles, if not a bit uninspiring. But I blame the script more than the actors. I’m not qualified to judge a playwright’s work, but it seems to me that these performers were not given strong material to work with. Considering Oscar-winning playwright Eric Simonson’s credits, I found that very surprising.
Now of course, this is just one man’s opinion. I saw a cadre of audience members all around me who had this jaw-dropped, amazed expression on their faces for the entire show. They were obviously mesmerized by the production, as I had hoped to be. You could very well see this show, be floored by it and wonder what the hell I was talking about. Thus…
I encourage any football fan to go see this show. For Packers fans, you will be guaranteed an enjoyable 90 minutes. If you’re a serious Packers fan, you won’t learn anything new, but you will be entertained. Whether a non-football fan theater-goer would feel they got their $80 worth from this show, however, is debatable.
My advice would be to not go to the show with great expectations, as I did. Just go in search of some fun Packers-related entertainment, and you won’t be disappointed.——————
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.