Sunday, Nov. 8, 2009

Green Bay to Broadway

Vince Lombardi Bio Show will be Staged on Broadway next year

By Russ Bickerstaff
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As I write this, the 4-3 Green Bay Packers are just an hour away from a more or less guaranteed victory against the 0-5 Buccaneers. As many easy games as they’ve had, they’re in the same division as one of the three best teams in the league, so Green Bay probably won’t make the playoffs this year. There is, however a good possibility that Green Bay will make it to Broadway some time soon.

It’s recently been reported that Eric Simonson’s Lombardi: The Only Thing is going to be staged on Broadway late next year. The bio play, which enjoyed a really, really good production with Next Act last year, features legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi at a very rough time in his life. A good portion of the play takes place in Lombardi’s office, which may mark the first time Broadway has staged a drama set in Green Bay. The other half of the play, which is a strange fugue taking place in an airport in Milwaukee, if I recall correctly, will be written out of the drama for Broadway. This sounds kind of tragic to me. I had my doubts about that dream game of sheepshead between Lombardi, his late father, legendary coach Red Blaik, John F. Kennedy and St Ignatius. Next Act brought it across brilliantly with a phenomenally good cast.

Editing out the surreal comedy of that card game kind of robs the drama of its soul. The Broadway version sounds like it’ll be much more earthbound, making for a substantially different play. The budget of a huge Broadway will probably mean a big name star in the title role, but it’d have to be someone who doesn’t look out of place playing a man who was in his early 50’s. And very few people have that distinctive Lomobardi look . . . Though he’s not built like Lombardi was, it’s hard to imagine a better actor for the title role than David Cecsarini, who put a great deal of thought into crafting a really good performance. The choice of turing the thing into a more straight ahead bio show seems like a strange one for a theatre space that’s likely to have a far bigger theatre than Next Act’s intimate Off-Broadway theatre in Milwaukee. Bigger venue tend to drown-out the drama in a live show. Focusing the play on that without an element of the off-beat fantasy of the original seems like a strange choice, but it just might end up being a success regardless. . .

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