Search Location


CPH Scores a Touchdown with Lombardi to Open 97th Season

Posted August 17, 2012 in Press Releases

CLEVELAND, OH (August 17, 2012) – Cleveland Play House opens its 97th 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 written by Eric Simonson and based on the book When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss. Lombardi begins in the Allen Theatre at PlayhouseSquare on Friday, September 14 and play through Sunday, October 7, 2012. Tickets are available at the PlayhouseSquare ticket office, by calling 216-241-6000 or going online Lombardi is sponsored by Cleveland Clinic, with promotional consideration from the Cleveland Browns and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and presented with support from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture and the Ohio Arts Council.

“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 (Vince 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.”


BOB ARI (Vince Lombardi) recently appeared as Mark Rothko in the CPH production of Red, a role he reprised after a successful run at George Street Playhouse. Ari has acted on Broadway in Frost/Nixon (understudy Richard Nixon), The Constant Wife, Bells Are Ringing, and Laughter on the 23rd Floor. Off-Broadway appearances include The Late Christopher Bean, Die Mommie Die!, Jolson & Company, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Baby Anger, and June Moon. He toured the United States in Frost/Nixon and toured Europe in West Side Story and Guys & Dolls. His many U.S. regional appearances include Pioneer Theatre Company in Dracula and 12 Angry Men; Fulton Theatre, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Olney Theatre Center, Witness for the Prosecution; Delaware Theatre Company, Born Yesterday and The Price; and Walnut Street Theatre, Hotel Suite and Art. Film and television includes Two Lovers, Wanted, Kissing Jessica Stein, Music of the Heart, Cradle Will Rock, Christmas Evil, Onion News Network, Delocated, The Good Wife, Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, Cheers, and more.

BRANTON BOX (Paul Hornung) has extensive credits in both television and film including Private Practice, The Exes, 90210, NCIS, Chuck, Party Down, General Hospital, Charmed, The Bold and the Beautiful, She Spies, Austin Stories, 22, Bounty Killer, Going Greek, New Suit, L.A. Twister, and They Would Love You in France. He was recently cast to shoot films Hope’s Wish and Them That’s Got, which are both slated for production in early 2013.

DAVID HARDIE (Jim Taylor) is a graduate of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Master of Fine Arts Acting program. Recent theatre credits include the role of Posthumous and Tybalt in the Orlando Shakespeare Theater productions of Cymbeline and Romeo and Juliet, and also the role of Bassanio in the Action Theater production of Merchant of Venice. Recent film credits include Nothing Special and Sacred Whispers.

JAVON JOHNSON (Dave Robinson) from the original Broadway cast of Lombardi, is a founding ensemble member of Congo Square Theatre. He is an accomplished actor and writer whose awards include Black Theater Alliance’s August Wilson Award, The Kennedy Center’s Lorraine Hansberry Award, Sundance Institute’s Theatre Lab, and more. Selected acting credits include Barbershop 2, Prison Break, One Life to Live, House of Payne, Daddy’s Little Girls, Othello, Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting, Two Trains Running, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Seven Guitars, and Stick Fly.

NICK MILLS (Michael McCormick) recently appeared in the world premiere of Baby Talk at Ars Nova in New York, a multi-media one-man show that he created and performed. He was part of the original cast of Itamar Moses' Back Back Back at The Old Globe, as well as the Los Angeles premiere of How to Disappear Completely and Never be Found at The Theatre @ Boston Court. Next year he will be seen in the PBS film Admiral Rickover. Mills holds a Master of Fine Arts from the New York University Graduate Acting Program and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Evansville.

DEEDEE RESCHER (Marie Lombardi) recently appeared onstage in Los Angeles in Prisoner of Second Avenue with Jason Alexander at El Portal Theatre; Shirley Valentine, Red Herring, Pursuit of Happiness, and Steve Martin’s The Underpants, The Laguna Playhouse; Everybody Say Cheese, Garry Marshall’s Falcon Theatre; and How the Other Half Loves, International City Theatre. Directly after traveling to Arizona Theatre Company with Lombardi, Rescher returns to California to reprise the role of Shirley Valentine at the Falcon Theatre. Television credits include a recurring role on ABC’s The Whole Truth with Rob Morrow and Maura Tierney; Disney’s Better with You, Good Luck Charlie, and Shout it Out; HBO’s The Comeback (with Lisa Kudrow); My Name is Earl; Malcolm in the Middle; Friends; Roseanne; and recurring roles on The Nanny and The King of Queens. Film credits include Skin Deep, Summer School, Once Bitten and the indelible lady bus driver in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

For a complete list of cast bios, go online.

LOMBARDI Creative Team:

ERIC SIMONSON (Playwright) plays and adaptations include Magic/Bird; Lombardi, on Broadway; Slaughterhouse-five, off-Broadway; and numerous plays which premiered at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago: Nomathemba (written with Ntozake Shange and Joseph Shabalala), Carter’s Way and, most recently, Honest and Fake. Other plays include The Last Hurrah; Louder Faster; with Jeffrey Hatcher; Work Song: Three Views of Frank Lloyd Wright, also with Jeff Hatcher; Edge of the World; Lombardi: The Only Thing; and Speak American. His work has been produced in Japan and throughout the United States at theatres including Huntington Theatre Company, L.A. Theatre Works, City Theatre of Pittsburgh, The Kennedy Center, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Arizona Theatre Company, Madison Rep, Kansas City Rep, and Crossroads Theatre Company. His adaptation of Moby Dick at Milwaukee Rep was chosen as one of Time Magazine’s top 10 productions of 2002. Simonson directed the Broadway production of The Song of Jacob Zulu, which received six Tony Award nominations, including one for best direction. He is also an accomplished film and opera director. With Campbell Scott he codirected Hamlet for Hallmark Entertainment, as well as three documentaries for HBO: Studs Terkel – Listening to America, Emmy nomination; A Note of Triumph, earning Simonson a Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Award; and On Tiptoe, Academy Award nomination. In 2005 he received a Princess Grace Statue Award for Sustained Artistic Achievement. Simonson is a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble and is currently overseeing the development of three new operas for Minnesota Opera’s OperaWorks and writing two play commissions for Manhattan Theatre Club.

DAVID MARANISS (Author) is an associate editor at The Washington Post. In addition to Barack Obama: The Story, Maraniss is the author of five critically acclaimed and bestselling books: When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi; First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton; They Marched Into Sunlight – War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967; Clemente – The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero; and Rome 1960: The Summer Olympics That Stirred the World. He is also author of Into the Story: A Writer’s Journey Through Life, Politics, Sports and Loss; The Clinton Enigma; and coauthor of The Prince of Tennessee: Al Gore Meets His Fate and Tell Newt to Shut Up! Maraniss is a three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, and he won the Pulitzer for National Reporting in 1993 for his newspaper coverage of then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton. He also was part of The Washington Post team that won a 2008 Pulitzer for the newspaper's coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting. He has earned several other notable awards for achievements in journalism, including the George Polk Award, the Dirksen Prize for Congressional Reporting, the ASNE Laventhol Prize for Deadline Writing, the Hancock Prize for Financial Writing, the Anthony Lukas Book Prize, the Frankfort Book Prize, the Eagleton Book Prize, the Ambassador Book Prize, and Latino Book Prize.

CASEY STANGL (Director) is a Los Angeles based director of theatre, opera and television. Recent projects include Tony Kushner’s adaptation of The Illusion at A Noise Within; the West Coast premiere of Carson Kreitzer’s Slither for Chalk Repertory Theatre, performed at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery Masonic Lodge; The Car Plays for Moving Arts at La Jolla Playhouse; and the world premiere of a new adaptation with music of Noel Coward’s Peace in our Time at Antaeus Company (winner of the 2012 Los Angeles Weekly Best Production). Stangl works extensively with new plays, and her recent developmental work includes workshops of Samuel Hunter’s The Few for South Coast Repertory’s Pacific Playwrights’ Festival and the Perry-Mansfield New Works Festival; Mia McCullough’s Household Spirits at PlayPenn New Play Development Conference in Philadelphia; and Oedipus the Man, Kenneth Cavander’s adaptation of the entire Oedipus Cycle, at Antaeus Company. Nationally, Stangl’s work has been seen at South Coast Repertory, Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival, Guthrie Theater, Denver Center Theatre Company, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Portland Stage, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Ensemble Studio Theatre Los Angeles, HERE Arts Center in New York, and many others. Opera credits include Music Academy of the West, Fort Worth Opera, Kentucky Opera, Portland Opera, Minnesota Opera Company, Pine Mountain Music Festival, Opera Omaha, Omaha Symphony, and Juilliard Opera Center in New York. Stangl was the founding artistic director of Eye of the Storm Theatre in Minneapolis – a company devoted to new work – for which she was named Minnesota Artist of the Year.

The design team for Lombardi includes Michael Schweikardt (Scenic Design), Lap Chi Chu (Lighting Design), Alex Jaeger (Costume Design), James C. Swonger (Sound Design) and Jeffrey Cady (Projections Designer). Also on the team: Stage Manager John Godbout, Assistant Stage Manager Thomas W. Humes. For a complete list of design team bios, go online.


Single tickets are on sale now; prices range from $49 to $69. Tickets are $15 for currently enrolled students under age 25 with valid ID. For single tickets, please call 216-241-6000 or go online at Groups of 10+ save up to 40% off single ticket prices; call 216-400-7027 or email

Founded in 1915, Cleveland Play House is America’s first professional regional theatre. Throughout its rich history, Cleveland Play House has remained dedicated to its mission to inspire, stimulate and entertain diverse audiences in Northeast Ohio by producing plays and theatre education programs of the highest professional standards. It has produced more than 100 world and/or American premieres, and over its long history more than 12 million people have attended over 1,300 CPH productions. Today, under the leadership of Artistic Director Michael Bloom and Managing Director Kevin Moore, Cleveland Play House looks toward its centennial while performing in three state-of-the art venues at PlayhouseSquare in downtown Cleveland.

Cleveland Play House is funded through the generosity of Cuyahoga County residents through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, and The Ohio Arts Council helps to fund Cleveland Play House with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.

Preview Performances:
Fri 9/14, Sat 9/15, Sun 9/16, Tue 9/18

Opening Night:
Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Final Performance:
Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tuesday Evenings 7:00 pm
Wednesday - Saturday Evenings 7:30 pm
Saturday and Sunday Matinees 2:30 pm
Weekday Matinee 1:30pm, Thu 9/27

Special Events

Pre-show Conversations – 45 minutes before every production. Led by CPH actors and staff, these interactive half-hour conversations pull back the curtain early to let you connect with the people, themes, ideas and creative choices that go into each production, in an engaging and relaxed setting.

Post-show Discussions
– Tuesday, 9/18; Sunday, 9/23; Sunday, 9/30; Sunday, 10/7 - A chance to interact with the cast, creative team, local experts and fellow playgoers in a lively and wide-ranging discussion of each production and the questions it raises.

Gen.NOW Series – Wednesday, 9/19
- A program for young and engaged Clevelanders ages 25-40 looking to enjoy each other, downtown hotspots, and CPH’s newest show, all at a special price. Call 216.400.7096 for tickets.

nightOUT! Series
– Thursday, 9/20 - A new program for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and friends. A fun way to spark a conversation and get to know a whole new rainbow of downtown places, friendly faces and CPH, all at a special price. Call 216.400.7096 for tickets.

Play Date
– Saturday matinee, 9/22; Saturday matinee, 10/6 - A new program for parents, grandparents, caregivers and their children. While grown-ups are watching Lombardi, children are in a play date where they will experience teamwork and learn what it means to be a leader on the field and the stage. Cost is $15 per child with purchase of Lombardi adult tickets. Call 216.400.7096 for tickets.

Go back to newsroom

Don't miss a thing. Sign up for our newsletter.

Get behind the scenes info, sneak peeks, show news and more.

  • facebook
  • twitter
  • instagram
  • flickr
  • youtube
  • pinterest

Our Theatres

Allen Theatre

Allen Theatre

Helen Theatre

Helen Theatre

Outcalt Theatre

Outcalt Theatre

The Allen, Helen and Outcalt theatres are located at Playhouse Square
1407 Euclid Avenue Cleveland, OH 44115

Administrative Offices and Education Center
1901 E. 13th Street, Suite 200 Cleveland, OH 44114 (216) 400-7000

Production Center
7401 Detour Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44103