They're selling cheeseheads in the lobby of the Milwaukee Rep's Quadracci Powerhouse Theater. And Packers T-shirts, caps, books and assorted tchotschkes.
Theatrically lighted Packers pennants hang inside the Powerhouse. The occasion, of course, is the Rep's production of "Lombardi," the first staging of the drama since its Broadway engagement ended in May.
A biographical snapshot of the Packers' coaching legend, the show sold an unprecedented 20,000 tickets before it opened, and the Rep has extended its run to Nov. 20.
Here are a few brief observations.
"Lombardi" is quite entertaining, even if you have no particular interest in him, the Packers or football. It's a good story.
Inspired by David Maraniss' superb 1999 biography "When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi," the play serves up an unvarnished portrait of the tempestuous coach. His Vesuvian volatility and personal struggle with anger are on display.
Lombardi's long-suffering wife, Marie, is the yeast that makes the play rise, and actress Angela Iannone's tart edginess fits the role to perfection. The show is always more interesting when she is onstage.
Actor Lee Ernst, a true theatrical chameleon, captures the coach's appearance and burly physicality, down to the gap-toothed grin. The smile's authenticity is achieved with a dental appliance.
Damien has been around so long, he was at Summerfest the night George Carlin was arrested for speaking the seven dirty words you can't say on TV. He was also at the Uptown Theatre the night Bruce Springsteen's first Milwaukee concert was interrupted for three hours by a bomb scare. Damien was reviewing the concert for the Milwaukee Journal. He wrote for the Journal and Journal Sentinel for 37 years, the last 29 as theater critic.
During those years, Damien served two terms on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, a term on the board of the association's foundation, and he studied the Latinization of American culture in a University of Southern California fellowship program. Damien also hosted his own arts radio program, "Milwaukee Presents with Damien Jaques," on WHAD for eight years.
Travel, books and, not surprisingly, theater top the list of Damien's interests. A news junkie, he is particularly plugged into politics and international affairs, but he also closely follows the Brewers, Packers and Marquette baskeball. Damien lives downtown, within easy walking distance of most of the theaters he attends.