When we last saw Dan Lauria on Broadway he was sauntering off stage as "Lombardi" closed a successful eight month run in 2012. Since then "The Coach" has been active on the Left Coast, in a lead role for the TBS' hit comedy "Sullivan and Son." But the amicable Brooklyn native, who has logged many hours on local stages across New Jersey in his career, is back on Broadway for a second time, in another role that guys can relate to, as the Jean Shepherd narrator in "A Christmas Story: The Musical" which opens at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in mid-November.
The role will continue an interesting collaboration between Lauria and Peter Billingsley, who played "Ralphie" in the wildly popular movie which the play is based on (and can still be seen every Christmas Day on Turner). Billingsley, himself a huge sports fan, produced “Sullivan and Son” (with actor Vince Vaughn, also a big "Lombardi" fan) and is one of the producers for the play. Lauria remains humble and sees the show as another bridge to bring Broadway to a new audience.
"First, I am the least talented person in this production. The kids, even the dogs, are amazing," he said recently. "What I'm hoping will happen with the play is similar to what happened with 'Lombardi,' women will bring their sons and husbands to the theater and they will love what they see and come back again. It is a story about fathers and sons that transcend a holiday, and that's what will make it special."
As far as his role in the play, which does not involve any singing but weaves the story together, the popular former star of "The Wonder Years" sees great similarities between the iconic storyteller Shepard and the Hall of Fame coach. "My guess is Jean Shepherd and Coach Lombardi would have enjoyed each others' company; they both commanded a presence and got the respect of those around them, albeit in a little bit of a different style. It is fun having played one and now the other."
As far as football goes, Lauria is a little more relieved this fall that he can openly support his Giants than he could the last time he was on stage. "It was a little dicey with 'Lombardi' as all the Packers fans thought I was selling out when I said I loved the Giants, but, hey, Coach belonged to the Giants as well," he added. "The Giants were a big reason why we were successful with their support, and now I'm hoping the team comes and sees this play as well."
Lauria added that he keeps in constant contact with Kevin Gilbride, Giants offensive coordinator, each week. The two were classmates and teammates at Southern Connecticut State University.
"Kevin is doing a great job on Coach Coughlin's staff, I am so happy for him," Lauria added. "I texted him after Sunday's game again, what a great job he has done with those talented players."
Although its not a sports show per se, the veteran actor knows there is a common link with fans to the movie, and thinks that will translate to the play.
"I would bet every athlete sitting home on Christmas Day has watched the movie, and I know guys love the theme and the lines, you hear them all the time," he said. "It is a play about fathers and sons and their bond, and that bond is the same as sports, so yes i do think if you liked 'Lombardi' and love the movie, you are really going to find something special with the play when we open."
For all the details visit http://www.broadway.com/shows/christmas-story/