When Lombardi opened on Broadway in the fall, no one thought a sports-infused drama about a long-dead football coach would be the only new play to last the season. But the production, which has grossed $4.9 million, has extended its run through June 19, even as 11 other new productions have closed. Lombardi's success, jump-started by a marketing effort aimed beyond the traditional theatergoer and bolstered by the Packers' Super Bowl run, has alerted Broadway to a previously untargeted audience: passionate sports fans. "It's bringing new people to the theater," says Lombardi producer Tony Ponturo. Now another play that uses sports as a vehicle to tell its story, a revival of Jason Miller's That Championship Season, opens for previews next week. The Pulitzer- and Tony Award--winning drama is set in 1970s Scranton at the reunion of a dying ex--basketball coach and his title-winning players 20 years after their glory days. The production stars Brian Cox, Jim Gaffigan, Chris Noth, Jason Patric and Kiefer Sutherland, all of whom researched their roles in a visit with basketball statesman Bill Bradley. And though That Championship Season is not being specifically marketed to sports fans, the audience that liked Lombardi would probably enjoy it. Says producer Robert Cole, "Sports is the magnet, something that draws people in."
JOAN MARCUS (LOMBARDI)
PLAY'S THE THING Lombardi's box office success has inspired producers.