The impact that the combination of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird had on creating the present-day success of the NBA has been well documented. There have been bestselling books written on the subject, and documentaries produced both for television and film have told the story.
Well, now Magic/Bird has opened on Brodway, and their story comes to life onstage. But first a little background on how this project came to life.
Their first collaboration together was Lombardi, a play about the life of former Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins head coach. The show drew rave reviews and was a great hit at the box office.
So what next after Lombardi?
Magic/Bird was a something the trio wanted to do. They loved the story and they felt that it translated well to the stage. Next, Ponturo, Kirmser and Kail went after and landed both Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as co-producers on the project. That gave the team firsthand knowledge of the nature of the rivalry as well as the friendship that developed between the two men.
Now, after months of hard work, the curtain goes up Wednesday night as Magic/Bird opens on Broadway at Longacre Theatre in New York. In between working out the last-minute details for opening night, I spoke to Kail about the show.
JW: Tell me a little about Magic/Bird.
Kail: Well, this is a great story. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird could not be two more different personalities, but from the time they entered the NBA, they were forever tied together. In telling their story, we have 42 scenes with 44 transitions, so as the director, I wanted the play to move quickly.
We have a great cast headed by Kevin Daniels, who plays Magic, and Tug Coker playing the role of Larry Bird. They are two wonderful talents. Plus, we have an outstanding cast of actors and actresses that play many roles throughout the play.
My goal is to stay true to their story, but to really capture the essence of why these two men, who were nothing alike, were rivals on the court and became such good friends and a big part of each other’s lives.
JW: What makes sports such great theater?
Kail: Sports is all about great stories that people love to tell. In the case of Lombardi, we had a larger-than-life character. His story lent itself to the stage because Vince Lombardi talked in a way that was perfect dialogue for a play.
Sports is different every day—each game provides a different outcome. There are enough characters in sports to do a number of plays.
I think that there is a great opportunity to bring sports fans to the theater. Once you have seen a play onstage, we hope it will open the door to people wanting to see other non-sports related productions as their introduction to the theater.
JW: Has being a sports fan helped you with Lombardi and now Magic/Bird?
Kail: Without question. I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area, and I am a huge Redskins, Wizards and Orioles fan. I played soccer and baseball in high school, and I wore No. 7 because I loved Kenny Lofton of the Cleveland Indians.
As a kid growing up, I watched Magic and the Lakers and Bird and the Celtics play on TV. Now, I get to be part of a great team that brings it to life, and that is really very cool for me as a sports fan and as a director.
By the way, Kail also wanted it to known that he is excited about Robert Griffin III possibly heading to Washington. He also has become a Nationals fan because of his father and hopes to see a few games this summer, but for now he is very busy with Magic/Bird.