The Mahaiwe in Great Barrington has been drafted to be the starting point for the pre-Broadway run of Lombardi, a new play about the most celebrated football coach in American history.
It’s big news for the Berkshires, and we have the full story from producer Tony Ponturo and Mahaiwe Executive Director Beryl Jolly.
“This is creating a lot of excitement,” said Beryl Jolly, Executive Director of the Mahaiwe. “Members have been calling and telling me they can’t wait to see this legend brought to life on our stage.”
Here’s the synopsis: Producers Tony Ponturo and Fran Kirmser announced that the new play Lombardi would be directed by Tony Award nominee Thomas Kail (In the Heights). Leading the cast are Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years) and Judith Light (Ugly Betty, Who’s the Boss?), and the production will also feature Keith Nobbs as Michael McCormick, Bill Dawes as Paul Hornung, Robert Christopher Riley as Dave Robinson and Chris Sullivan as Jim Taylor.
Lombardi will play the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington from July 22-28 before opening Thursday, October 21, 2010 at the Circle in the Square Theatre on Broadway. Previews will also take place in New York, beginning Thursday, September 23, 2010.
Producer Ponturo (who was involved with the Broadway revivals of Hair and Memphis, and is a sports marketing genius) pointed out how important the Berkshire engagement is: “The show at the Mahaiwe will have our full Broadway cast, and the cast and producers are counting on Berkshire audiences for feedback.”
Forty years ago in the National Football League, the Pack ruled. And who ruled the Pack? Vince Lombardi, the coaching legend for whom the Super Bowl trophy is named. More than any other sports figure, Lombardi transformed football into our national Rite of Fall. But even a living legend was no match for colon cancer, which caused his premature death in 1970 at age 57.
Lombardi producer Tony Ponturo says “Not only was he a great football coach but there are good life lessons to be learned.”
We asked Ponturo about this venture.
How did you come to pick the Berkshires and the Mahaiwe for this important tryout?
As producers, we wanted to find a theater and community that appreciated theater work, with an audience that we could respect to give us great feedback as our show develops for Broadway. At the Mahawie , we can maintain the flexibility that is needed to see through our vision, but still have the professionalism of Beryl Jolly and her staff very nearby to support this very important project. An out-of-town performance allows us, our actors, playwright, and director to feel the pulse and measure the audience reaction to every part of the play.
Will the cast and scenery be the same as in New York?
The show at the Mahawie will have our full Broadway cast, although sets will be different, since on Broadway we will be at Circle in the Square, which is in the round.
Are you looking at selling beer or sports items during intermission?
The show is approximately 95 minutes without an intermission, so the beer at intermission will not be an option. That said, I am sure our cast and producers will enjoy some of the social interaction of the Great Barrington area to chat about football, Lombardi, and the whole amazing experience. The NFL is a producing partner on Lombardi, so many ideas are still in development regarding sponsors, memorabilia, and other opportunities that will enhance the theater experience
Lombardi’s story lends itself to the stage. In the hands of a gifted actor all its drama, suspense, excitement will come to life. Noted actor Dan Lauria, best known for playing the father on the ABC series “The Wonder Years,” will star as Lombardi. Mr. Lauria happens to be a former football coach, and he began acting while attending Southern Connecticut State University on a football scholarship.
The production has the active support of the NFL which has given the producers permission to use its logos, film footage and ancillary rights. The league will also help promote and market the play.
Here is Coach Lombardi addressing the team in the locker room after winning Super Bowl II.
The play is based on the 1999 biography of Lombardi, “When Pride Still Mattered,” by David Maraniss. It is being adapted for the stage by Eric Simonson. It is the second play about Lombardi for the playwright, his earlier work, Lombardi/The Only Thing was done in 2007 by Madison Repertory Theatre.
Everyone involved with the production of Lombardi is on a double mission. First to celebrate a great life with those who lived it vicariously on television and through the sports writers, while also introducing a new generation to one of the key figures in NFL history.
And it is all going to start here on July 22 at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center.
8PM Performances: Thursday 7/22, Friday 7/23 & Saturday 7/24;
3PM Performances: Saturday 7/24, Sunday 7/25;
7PM Performances: Tuesday 7/27, Wednesday 7/28
Tickets have just gone on sale, and can be ordered online by going to http://www.mahaiwe.org/, in person, or by phone 413-528-0100.