‘Lombardi’ back for another run

Two veteran actors reprise their iconic roles

Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Playing some of the legendary players on Coach Vince Lombardi’s team are, from left, Dave Stuewer, Dave Woosencraft and Lloyd Friesen. “Lombardi” opens Friday.

Green Bay Packers fans might not have been able to see their team in the playoffs this year, but there’s still a chance to see one of the team’s legendary coaches come alive.

The Box in the Wood Theatre Guild is bringing back “Lombardi,” first performed in Shawano in 2013, for three shows only. “Lombardi” showcases the great Vince Lombardi and one reporter’s struggle to capture the story about the iconic coach who led the Packers to its first two Super Bowl victories.

The play, written by Eric Simonson, is based on the book “When Pride Still Mattered — A Life of Vince Lombardi,” which was penned by David Maraniss.

When the guild first performed the play in May 2013, it was anticipated that would be the only time it performed the show. However, this year is the 50th anniversary of when Lombardi coached his last game with the Packers, and the guild thought it was the perfect opportunity to bring “Lombardi” back for an encore.

Two of the show’s original cast members will return to the stage. Ralph Beversdorf will again play Lombardi himself, and Geoff Madsen is back as reporter Michael McCormick — the only fictional character in “Lombardi.”

Beversdorf wasn’t certain he wanted to play Lombardi again. He recalled the show had a great first run and questioned whether they should tinker with that success. But when Madsen agreed to return as the coach’s adversary, Beversdorf decided to get back on board.

“We have a special chemistry, Geoff and I,” Beversdorf said, occasionally lapsing into the drawl he uses to portray Lombardi. “That’s what really made me commit to another go of it. We read each other pretty well. But when we get into character, who knows what’s going to happen? We just go.”

Madsen echoed that sentiment, saying working with Beversdorf on “Lombardi,” “The Devil and Daniel Webster” and other shows has always been an enjoyable experience.

“To paraphrase what Ralph said, there’s a chemistry doing it then and doing it now,” Madsen said. “It’s just a magical time being on the stage with Ralph.”

Madsen said he also kind of dragged his feet when asked to reprise his role as McCormick. For him, it was about trying new roles and different characters.

“I was like, ‘I’ve already done that. I want to do another project,’” Madsen said. But he added, “as long as Ralph was in it, I was going to be in it.”

Although this is Beversdorf’s second time as Lombardi, he noted that it’s not easy trying to bring the legend to life.

“Vince has constant emotions, but they’re all loud, screaming emotions,” Beversdorf said.

Madsen admitted he had an easier time getting back into the show.

“I just started reading the script, and then the lines just started coming back to me,” he said.

Beversdorf and Madsen both noted there was one scene they could never get quite right during the original run. Madsen called it the “nemesis” scene, where McCormick finally stands up to the commanding coach, but now there’s a chance to do it justice.

“If we don’t, we’ll bluff our way through it,” Beversdorf said. “It may not come in the right order, but we get it all in.”

Tom Madsen, director for the show and the one who recommended bringing back “Lombardi” now, said this opportunity was a one-time deal for him.

“Mainly, it was for my love of Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers,” he said.

This run of “Lombardi” will be different in that it is also being done as a dinner theater, a rare thing for Box in the Wood. The deadline has passed for dinner show tickets, but there are still general seats available for those who want to come and just see the show.

The guild had scheduled the show for the week between the NFC and AFC conference championships and the Super Bowl so it would not conflict with NFL fans’ sports schedules.

“We thought this would be a great week, because the Packers would be in the NFC Championship game, they’re going to win it and be going into the Super Bowl,” the director said. “Well, the Minnesota Vikings kind of changed our plans.”