He first coached at St. Cecilia’s High School in Englewood, married a Jersey girl and finally rested in Middletown’s Mount Olivet Cemetery. Now Vince Lombardi—who led the Green Bay Packers to back-to-back Super Bowl victories—is playing on Broadway, thanks to Plainfield native Tony Ponturo.
Dismayed that generations know little of the gridiron genius for whom the Super Bowl trophy is named, Ponturo, 58, commissioned and co-produced Lombardi, a six-character play based on David Maraniss’s biography, When Pride Still Mattered. Starring Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years) as Lombardi and Trenton native Judith Light (Who’s the Boss?) as his wife, Marie, the play opened in October at Circle in the Square theater.
A middle linebacker for the Bayley-Ellard High School Bishops in Madison when Lombardi’s Packers dominated the NFL, Ponturo earned an economics degree at Villanova but was most passionate about sports and entertainment. He took his “unofficial master’s—18 months of making 150 bucks a week” as an NBC page before tackling advertising and working his way up to vice president of global media, sports and entertainment marketing for Anheuser-Busch.
He left the beer giant in 2008—the same year Businessweek ranked him 14th on its list of the 100 most influential people in sports—and started Ponturo Management Group in New York City, producing a pair of Tony winners: the revival of Hair and Memphis (written by Oradell native Joe DiPietro, with score and lyrics by Jersey boy David Bryan of Bon Jovi). Ponturo’s clout—he received a Lifetime Innovator Award at the inaugural Sports Media Marketing Awards in November—helped him win the NFL’s permission to use its trademark for Lombardi and has attracted some big sports names come curtain time.
“You have to believe in yourself, and it’ll work out,” Ponturo says. Lombardi, no doubt, would agree.