David Henderson Is Astonishing as the Legendary Packers Coach in Lombardi

Because football actually happens right onstage between two very realistic sets of bleachers, audience members will not be admitted (nor re-admitted) during the 90-minute duration of Theatre Raleigh’s July 19-23 and 26-30 presentation of Lombardi in the Kennedy Theatre in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh, NC. The 2010 Broadway play Lombardi by Eric Simonson is based on the book When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi by Pulitzer Prize winner David Maraniss. It is a powerful play about a powerful and controversial coach.

David Henderson, who is absolutely one of the best actors in North Carolina, so throws himself into his role of Vince Lombardi that you may not recognize him. He is one of those Meryl Streep-like actors who thoroughly becomes his character; and, in this case, the results are astonishing.

When the curtain rises, Look Magazine reporter Michael McCormick (Adam Poole) has been assigned to write an article about Lombardi after the coach’s being hired by the Green Bay Packers. Pool’s McCormick is well able to withstand the onslaught of Henderson’s portrayal of the mercurial Lombardi. In several confrontations, the drama rises to duet-like tantrums that often become comedic.

<em>Lombardi</em> stars Adam Poole (left), David Henderson, and Judy McLaine (photo by Alexa Rose Blazevich)
Lombardi stars Adam Poole (left), David Henderson, and Judy McLaine (photo by Alexa Rose Blazevich)

Judy McLane, as Vince’s wife, the loving and incredibly tolerant Marie Lombardi, is also to be commended for responding to Henderson with guts and aplomb as the characters interact with fireworks and tenderness.

Paul Hornung, the “Golden Boy” of pro football, and winner of many awards, including the Heisman Trophy, and induction into both the college and NFL halls of fame, is played by Victor Joel Ortiz. Ortiz delivers a performance that is authentically athletic, varying from gentlemanly good sense to starkly over-the-top boy-like jock.

Dan Callaway as Jim Taylor and Jade Arnold as Dave Robinson both do exemplary work in their football-player roles, displaying athletic prowess as well as broad ranging acting skills.

David Henderson (center) stars as Packers coach Vince Lombardi (photo by Alexa Rose Blazevich)
David Henderson (center) stars as Packers coach Vince Lombardi (photo by Alexa Rose Blazevich)

Kudos to Cameron Denson and Kenny Hertling, who doubled as football players and efficient and quiet set changers. They managed their work being completely unobtrusive as well providing the necessary opponents and teammates when football action required.

Scenic designer Chris Bernier has created a virtual football field, with goal posts at one end and a bank of night lights at the other. In the center of the field is painted a large green and gold “G.” The audience sits in bleachers with section numbers guiding us to our seats. On two large screens above the bleachers, team action movies and TV NFL games are occasionally projected.

The realistic game sounds, created by Eric Alexander Collins, enhance the football experience. Lighting by Erich Keil is precise and timely.

Excellent costumes by Sarah McCabe replicate the Packers uniforms, putting us right on the field. The clothing of Vince Lombardi, Michael McCormick, and Marie Lombardi is accurate for the period; and Vince’s signature camel-hair coat and fedora stand out.

For an exciting theatrical experience that includes a stellar performance by our own David Henderson, we strongly recommend this show.

Victor Joel Ortiz (center) stars as Packers' "Golden Boy" Paul Hornung (photo by Alexa Rose Blazevich)
Victor Joel Ortiz (center) stars as Packers’ “Golden Boy” Paul Hornung (photo by Alexa Rose Blazevich)

SECOND OPINION: July 19th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/lombardi/Event?oid=6786296. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the July 20th Triangle Review review by Pamela Vesper and Kurt Benrud, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/07/theatre-raleighs-lombardi-is-a-winning-production-of-a-play-about-a-winning-coach/.)

Theatre Raleigh presents LOMBARDI, starring David Henderson as Vince Lombardi, at 8 p.m. July 20 and 21, 2 and 8 p.m. July 22, 3 p.m. July 23, 8 p.m. July 26-28, 2 and 8 p.m. July 29, and 3 p.m. July 30 in the Sara Lynn and K.D. Kennedy, Jr. Theatre in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 2760.

TICKETS: 30 ($28 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel). BOX OFFICE: 919-832-9997, meagan@theatreraleigh.com, or https://theatreraleigh.secure.force.com/ticket#details_a0S610000035dTyEAI.

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-832-9997 or meagan@theatreraleigh.com.

SHOW: https://theatreraleigh.secure.force.com/ticket#details_a0S610000035dTyEAI and http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/lombardi-8123.

2017 SEASON: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/2017-season/. P

RESENTER: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Theatre-Raleigh/349124511834045, and https://twitter.com/TheatreRaleigh.

VENUE: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/venue/kennedy-theatre.

DIRECTIONS: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/directions.

PARKING: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/parking.


Lombardi (2010 play): http://www.lombardibroadway.com/ (official website), http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=4296 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://www.ericsimonson.org/lombardi/ (Eric Simonson’s web page) https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/lombardi-487854 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lombardi_(play) (Wikipedia).

The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).

Study Guide: http://www.lombardibroadway.com/downloads/studyguide-rev.pdf (from the 2010-11 Broadway production).

Eric Simonson (Milwaukee, WI-born playwright and screenwriter): http://www.ericsimonson.org/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/eric-simonson-16179 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Simonson (Wikipedia).

Charlie Brady (director): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/charlie-brady-476211 (Internet Broadway Database) and https://www.facebook.com/charlie.brady.10 (Facebook page).


Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on Amazon.com. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori previously reviewed theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.