Best known as the often silent (if grimacing) father on television’s “The Wonder Years,” Dan Lauria gives his vocal chords a workout as the bombastic coach who led the Green Bay Packers through their own wonder years in “Lombardi” at Circle in the Square. Making a knockout Broadway debut, Lauria bristles with the energy of a man who lives for football, with wattage that outshines the stadium lights on David Korins’s meticulously efficient set. Virtually unable to talk without shouting, his Vince Lombardi goes beyond the tough guy with a heart of gold. He’s got heart — plenty of it — but it’s made of muscle and makes real blood course through the veins of a single-minded man who thinks he’s always right.
At his side is wife Marie, a shoulder-scrunching, cocktailing, grown-up Catholic schoolgirl magnificently brought to life by Judith Light. Vince and Marie allow narrator Michael McCormick (Keith Nobbs), a reporter for Look Magazine, to stay with them for a week in November, 1965. We see what their lives are like for a week during a winning season and flash back to some earlier pivotal times.
Eric Simonson’s taut script doesn’t waste a word. And Thomas Kail’s crisp direction uses the in-the-round space of the Circle theater to maximum advantage. But it’s the powerhouse performances of Lauria and Light — as the explosive, dynamic Hall of Famer and his supportive, cynical better half — that pump this football fable full of adrenaline.