Dan Lauria grew up on Long Island after being born in Brooklyn and refers to himself as an old jock. So it wasn’t a stretch to see him bringing Vince Lombardi back to life two years ago in the acclaimed Tony-nominated play. “I grew up playing sports, it is what gave me my entree into the theater when I was at Southern Connecticut as a student,” he said. So it should be no surprise the life-long Yankees and Giants fan is back on Broadway, but in a musical?
Yes “A Christmas Story” is a new musical, but Lauria isn’t carrying any tunes. He is carrying the role as narrator Jean Shepherd in the show, which will open at the Lunt-Fontaine Theater in mid-November and is based on the wildly famous movie of the same title which starred a young Peter Billingsley as Ralphie and Darren McGavin as his dad. The same movie repeated on Christmas Day each year on Turner for millions of fans, especially young boys and their own dads, who love the slapstick timeless story about the hunt for the famous Red Rider BB Gun.
For his part, Lauria will weave the story together as Shepherd did in the film, with some very talented young people amongst the ensamble.
“I’m the least talented person in the cast, and that’s a good thing,” Lauria added. “These kids will carry the show, and i think the story will resonate with a new audience on Broadway, one which ironically, will be similar to ‘Lombardi’ in many ways.”
Many of those consumers will be sports fans, many feel, who have taken to the movie over the last few decades and have made it appointment viewing on what is normally a slow sports day. Lauria believes that connection will do the play well.
“Yes there is a common bond to sports fans in this story; it’s a story of tradition and fathers and sons and their quirks, and that is really what draws people to follow sports teams as well,” he added. “For sure I’m one of them as well.”
As for his own interests, the die-hard New Yorker remains loyal to his Giants, especially with the ties that were cemented to the team during “Lombardi,” ranging from players coming in droves to his direct link to offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, who was a classmate at SoConn and teammate in football.
“I’m so happy that the Giants, a team that has always done it right, is continuing to succeed and grow, I think those guys will love this play as well, because it is about fun and tradition and has common themes as to the way the Giants and their fans tie together,” he added.
Lauria commiserated over the fate of the Yankees, his other favorite team (he is in regular contact with longtime friend and Yankees staffer Lee Mazilli), but his ties to their tradition are also intact. “It’s a shame what happened to Jeter but that’s the way sports goes, it’s cyclical. I just hope they can bounce back next year,” he said.
As for his role, Lauria sees clear ties between Shepherd, the legendary story teller, and Lombardi, the Hall of Fame coach. “They both had amazing presence, and I’m sure had some kind of admiration for each other, although I don’t know that for sure,” he said. “Coach Lombardi was a great student of history and tradition, and that’s what Jean Shepard did in his writing and radio work as well, I think they would both enjoy what we are doing on Broadway this Christmas season.”
Judging by early comments, it seems like “The Coach” may again be part of a Broadway winner.