Cleveland Play House Opens 98th Season with LOMBARDI, 9/14-10/7

Cleveland Play House opens its 98th consecutive season with its new production of the smash Broadway hit Lombardi. Bob Ari, seen last season as Mark Rothko in Red, returns to CPH to play the legendary coach who defined inspiration.

This intimate and often humorous play explores the famous coach through his relationships with those closest to him: his steadfast wife and his dedicated players, and a determined young reporter who attempts to peel away the façade of one of America’s most motivational and mercurial personalities.

Directed by Casey Stangl and a co-production with Arizona Theatre Company, Lombardi is based on the book When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss and adapted for the stage by Eric Simonson. Lombardi begins in the Allen Theatre at PlayhouseSquare on Friday, September 14 and play through Sunday, October 7, 2012.

Tickets, on sale now, range in price from $49 to $69. Tickets are $15 for currently enrolled students under age 25 with valid ID. They are available at The PlayhouseSquare ticket office, by calling 216-241-6000 or going online at Allen Theatre, PlayhouseSquare is located at 1407 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio.

“Producing a football play in September in Cleveland was an easy call,” says CPH Artistic Director Michael Bloom. “And with one of the best character actors around playing Lombardi, victory is assured.”

“I am inspired and intimidated when I think of portraying this iconic figure -- a true football hero and innovator,” says actor Bob Ari (Lombardi). “He’s also one of the most complex and interesting men of the 20th century. But there's nowhere I would feel more comfortable and excited about doing it than with Cleveland Play House and performing it for their wonderful audiences. It's great to be back!” Ari won raves from Cleveland audiences for his portrayal of Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko in Red.

Vince Lombardi (1913-1970) was one of the greatest football coaches of all time. The son of an Italian immigrant, he spent twenty years as a high school coach and an assistant coach at the university and professional level before becoming the head coach and general manager, at the age of 46, of a struggling team in remote Wisconsin. Lombardi’s work with the Green Bay Packers is football’s Cinderella story. Coming off the worst losing season in their history, the Packers quickly became one of football’s most respected teams. In his first year, he led the Packers to their first winning season in twelve years and was named NFL Coach of the Year. In the nine seasons with Lombardi at the helm, the Packers would win five NFL championships, including the first two Super Bowls.

Lombardi explores the man behind the legend. In November of 1965, youthful Look Magazine reporter Michael McCormick gets the opportunity to write the sports article of a lifetime: his boss Tom Ryder arranges for him to stay a week as the house guest of Vincent Lombardi and is given unprecedented access to the practice field – Ryder, it turns out, is a friend of Lombardi’s. Just how close a friend comes to light during the course of the play, forcing both McCormick and Lombardi to re-examine their morals and ultimately, their respective career paths. Lombardi’s all-too-human strengths, vulnerabilities and flaws are gradually (and sometimes grudgingly) revealed through the actions and reminiscences of Lombardi, his wife Marie, and a core group of loveable, veteran football players.

When asked what motivated him to write this play, Eric Simonson states, “I have always been fascinated with people in our culture, American culture, who have such a force of personality that they’ve somehow made themselves part of the cultural landscape. Vince Lombardi is one of those people. You could also say that about folks like Theodore Roosevelt, Frank Lloyd Wright…any number of people. These people have not only influenced the cultural landscape, they also had fascinating lives.” He continues, “For me, Vince Lombardi was a football coach, but he was much more than that. He was a philosopher, he was a teacher, he inspired a lot of people through what he said and the way he said it. He’s a fully dimensional man, a complicated man, more complex than people realize.”

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