newest CVTG production tackles Packer great

Emily Anderson, photos by Andrea Paulseth

CVTG veteran Ron Krienke plays Vince Lombardi, who you may recognize as the greatest Wisconsinite in the history of Wisconsinites.
CVTG veteran Ron Krienke plays Vince Lombardi, who you may recognize as the greatest Wisconsinite in the history of Wisconsinites.

Just in time for the start of regular season football, the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild will be putting on their production of Lombardi. The show is fresh off of Broadway and will be making its local debut at the Grand Theatre in the beginning of September. Based on the biography “When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi” by David Maraniss, Lombardi tells the story of legendary Green Bay Packers’ coach Vince Lombardi. Even if you’re not a frequent theatre-goer, any Packer or football fan will find this show both entertaining and informative because it brings the history of the Green Bay Packers and the life of Vince Lombardi to the stage, and all the characters and events are historically accurate. Lombardi is directed by Lucas Risinger, who recently directed CVTG’s production of the Wizard of Oz. As an avid fan of both theatre and football (much like myself), Risinger said, “I simply could not pass up an opportunity to bring these two loves together.”

Lombardi is narrated by Michael McCormick (Rob Vanderloop), the only fictional character in the show. He has come to Green Bay to write an article about Vince Lombardi, played by CVTG veteran Ron Krienke, and what makes him such an incredible coach and teacher. McCormick stays with Vince and his wife and attends Packer practices, all in order to get to know who the real Vince Lombardi is. He is a man who is not perfect, but strives for it, both on the field and off. Although he is a legend in many fans’ eyes, this show manages to humanize Lombardi. 

Marie Lombardi, Vince’s wife and the only female character in the show, is played by another familiar CVTG face, Robin Michelsen. In addition to Vince and Marie Lombardi, Packer aficionados will also recognize three of the greatest Packers legends of all time: Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, and Dave Robinson (Russ Slack, Kurt Wiegel, and Aaron Suggs, respectively). Working with such a small cast of six is much different for Risinger than directing a cast of almost 100 for the Wizard of Oz. Although the cast is small, Risinger credits them for their chemistry and experience. Many members of the cast and crew have ample experience in acting and directing. Kreinke, for example, recently directed CVTG’s Gypsy as well as countless other CVTG productions and has performed in his fair share of them as well. According to Risinger, their talent and experience makes them fun to work with. “I am honored to work with such professionals,” he says.

The show comprises flashbacks to significant events in Lombardi’s life, including his arrival in Green Bay and the championship years, a series of monologues from Vince, and a large collection of photos and videos that help bring the story to life. Despite being a football coach, Lombardi can be thought of as more of a life coach. The lessons in his monologues are inspirational and relevant to all audiences, proving that this show isn’t just for the Packer fans out there. The script selection board, which included director Risinger, chose this show not only for the obvious Packer ties, but for its well-written script and accessibility. Even if you aren’t a football fan, you will find it easy to relate to the show’s characters and storyline, and any theatre lover will appreciate the top-notch cast and the script’s perfect mix of drama and comedy. Also, in true Wisconsin fashion, there will be beer and brats before each show… what more could you ask for?