Given Josh Beadle’s passion for theater and football, it made perfect sense for the executive director of Three Brothers Theatre to stage the play “Lombardi.”
The play reveals a slice of Green Bay Packers coach and Professional Football Hall of Famer Vince Lombardi’s life as he takes his team to a championship season. It runs Nov. 11 and 12 at Genesee Theatre in Waukegan under Beadle’s direction.
“There is something special for me about connecting two things that I love very much: theater and football,” Beadle said. “‘Lombardi’ is a great insight to an amazing coach. It shines a light on an interesting character in American history.”
Vince Lombardi led the Green Bay Packers football team to three straight conference championships in the 1960s. The team won the first two Super Bowls at the end of the 1966 and 1967 seasons. The trophy was later named after Lombardi, who died in 1970 from cancer at the age of 57. Each winter, a National Football League team is awarded the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy.
Plenty of statistics abound regarding Lombardi, for example, his regular-season winning percentage was nearly 74 percent.
But the play takes the audience deeper into Lombardi’s psyche, revealing some subplots even football fans may not know.
The play premiered on Broadway in 2010 and was based on the nonfiction book, “When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi,” written by Pulitzer Prize winner David Maraniss. The play, written by Eric Simonson, is staged during the 1965 season when the Packers are at the top of their game.
Reporter Michael McCormick wants to interview Lombardi and his players about producing a winning team, but Lombardi doesn’t want certain players talking, because they may give away some secrets. McCormick and Lombardi get into a fight in front of the players.
The reporter then goes to Lombardi’s wife who offers some interesting fodder about her husband’s decision to accept the Green Bay coaching position.
Portraying the American icon is Michael May, who teaches English and social studies and coaches girls volleyball at Robert Abbott Middle School in Waukegan. May said as a coach he understands the drive to win that permeated Lombardi’s life.
“Lombardi has a strong personality. He’s loud and he’s a little bit in your face. He wants to do his best,” May said. “He didn’t let anything get in the way during football season.”
May said, “When I coach volleyball, we easily practice as much as any other team in our league. My eighth grade girls have won their 11th city championship in a row.”
To make a winning team requires perfection and mental toughness, something May said Lombardi stressed. May is a Chicago Bears fans but he has friends who are Green Bay Packers fans and as soon as he got the part to play Lombardi, he let them know.
While reading and rehearsing the play May learned Lombardi was more of a perfectionist than he thought. There’s plenty of friction in the play, for example when the reporter and Lombardi go head to head, he added.
“For that scene, I’ll approach it like a father and son and the son is not doing what I told him to do,” May said.
He added the audience will see a softer side of Lombardi. “Little rays of sunshine peak out now and then, quickly followed by thunderous storms … You see in the play how devoted his players were to him and you see the ones he did not have a good rapport with,” May said.
May’s favorite scene is when Lombardi confronts a Professional Football Hall of Famer Paul Hornung, who was a halfback and field kicker for the Packers.
“You see the full range of Lombardi’s personality in that scene,” May said.
Beadle says May brings “fire” and “a lot of energy” to the Lombardi role. May has been rehearsing with his normal coif of long hair and beard, but a week before opening night he said he’ll shave that all off to look more like Lombardi and really get into the part.
May said he’s looking forward to portraying Lombardi in front of an audience.
“When they come to see the play, it will open their eyes to see who he really was, all the good and all the bad,” he said.
When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12
Where: Genesee Theatre, 203 N. Genesee St., Waukegan
Information: 847-263-6300, geneseetheatre.com
Sheryl DeVore is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.