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Review Roundup: LOMBARDI



LOMBARDI, a new American play from Academy Award-winning playwright Eric Simonson, is based on the best-selling Vince Lombardi biography "When Pride Still Mattered", by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss.

LOMBARDI, starring Dan Lauria as the legendary Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi and Judith Light as his wife Marie, opened Thursday October 21 at the Circle in the Square Theatre, (50th, west of Broadway).

Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: The director, Thomas Kail ("In the Heights"), manages traffic effectively, but the play's scattered structure and lack of a strong focus on its central character deprive it of forward momentum. Mr. Lauria, who bears a passable resemblance to Lombardi, supplies jolts of energy when he can, lacing the pep talks with gusto or stalking the living room with broody irritability, Pepto-Bismol in hand, when problems on the field arise. (The in-the-round set, by David Korins, subtly suggests the shape of a football stadium.) What no actor could provide is the compelling emotional or psychological substance that's absent from the writing.

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: What we get is the off-field world of Vince and Marie Lombardi - the home, the practice sessions, team talks and a few flashbacks. There's nothing here revelatory to fans of Lombardi. But seeing the legend walking and talking - as opposed to grainy film - makes it all more visceral.

Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal: Mr. Lauria, whom TV viewers will remember from "The Wonder Years," knows a dream part when he sees one, and makes the most of this one. He plays Mr. Lombardi like a warmer but comparably tough version of George C. Scott's Patton, and lurking beneath the buzzsaw bluster of his win-or-else tirades is a stealthy note of Pattonesque desperation, the fear that he'll blow his last chance to make it as a head coach. Indeed, I was startled by the cinder-dark passion with which Mr. Lauria assures Keith Nobbs, the geeky reporter-interlocutor who narrates "Lombardi," that he'd "just as soon die" as watch the Packers slip back into second place. I believed it, and so will you.

Elysa Gardner, USA Today: Lombardi liked to say that while perfection isn't attainable, in chasing it we can catch excellence. Lombardi may aspire to and achieve something less, but there are worse ways to spend 95 minutes.

Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter: Finally, there's a Broadway show to which husbands can drag their wives rather than the other way around. But though the new biodrama about famed football coach Vince Lombardi is bound to attract sports fans who otherwise would not venture near a theater, theatergoers not inherently interested in the subject are going to be a much tougher sell. Heavy on sports atmosphere but light on content, "Lombardi" doesn't make it to the goal line.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: Can "Lombardi" be the show to overcome Broadway's ingrained disdain for sports-themed plays? That depends on audience expectations of Eric Simonson's biodrama (based on a book by David Maraniss) about Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi. Fans content just to spend a few hours in the company of this great guy should be mesmerized by Dan Lauria's spot-on impersonation of the famously hot-tempered Lombardi. More sports-minded auds, eager for insights on how this legendary coach famously guided the Green Bay Packers to five Super Bowl championships, might want to know why the show spends so little time on the gridiron. Lauria, the lovably grumpy sitcom dad on "The Wonder Years," brings that endearing quality to his scrappy portrait of Lombardi as the surrogate father who bullied, scolded, cheered and dragged the Packers out of the NFL cellar and on to glory. Working off his own bulldog physique and gap-toothed grin, Lauria achieves an eerie physical resemblance to Lombardi, who used his whole body to speak his mind.

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