'Lombardi' Producers Bringing Magic Johnson/Larry Bird Friendship to Broadway

By Alex Weprin 

Fran Kirmser and Tony Ponturo, the producers of the Broadway play “Lombardi,” are adding a second sports-themed drama to their roster.

They are working with the NBA on “Magic/Bird,” which will explore the careers and friendship of NBA greats Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird.

Eric Simonson, who wrote “Lombardi,” will also pen “Magic/Bird,” based on conversations with the players, who will be closely involved with the creative process.


More information in the official announcement, after the jump.


New York, February 17, 2011 – While the NBA All-Star Weekend unfolds in Los Angeles, it was announced today that Fran Kirmser and Tony Ponturo, the Producers of Lombardi (currently running on Broadway at Circle in the Square Theatre) are embarking on their next Broadway collaboration, MAGIC/BIRD. A new play by Oscar winner, Steppenwolf Theater Company member, and Lombardi playwright Eric Simonson, MAGIC/BIRD chronicles the intertwined life stories of two of the most influential figures in sports and pop culture of the past 25 years, basketball Hall of Famers Larry Bird and Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson. The play will be produced in association with the National Basketball Association and Johnson and Bird themselves will participate in the creative process of this completely original play.”

At the heart of one of the fiercest rivalries in sports history, two of the greatest basketball players of all-time battled for three championships, bragging rights, and the future of their sport in the 1980s. Johnson and Bird electrified the nation on the court, reinvigorated the NBA, and turned their rivalry into one of the greatest and most famous friendships in professional sports. The play, with a six character cast, is scheduled to debut on Broadway in 2012.

“I am fortunate to be working with great professionals such as Fran, Tony and Eric. I am looking forward to working with them to create a story for the Broadway stage about such an exciting and important time in my life,” said Larry Bird.

“I have great love and respect for Larry Bird, and am elated that our personal and professional relationship will now be exposed to an even larger audience through this dramatic production,” Johnson said. “Fran Kirmser and Tony Ponturo have a proven record not just of creating a successful production, but in making sure the story depicted is historically correct and impactful to a wide audience, and I am looking forward to assisting and supporting this effort in any way possible.”

“Many know Larry Bird and Magic Johnson as phenomenal athletes but there lies a fiercely competitive relationship, great love and respect between the two men forged from the trenches of professional basketball. At a time when we’ve recently seen so many unhealthy competitive relationships, MAGIC/BIRD will tell the story of how these two men – one from the midwest, White, a private person and one from urban America, African-American, and extremely outgoing – entered into a healthy yet fierce competition and exhilarated basketball fans across the nation,” said producer Fran Kirmser. “The play will be fast-paced, mirroring the game of basketball, and will utilize film and photos from their historic competitive days. These men worked hard and pushed one another, transforming the sport of Basketball and beyond, and significantly touching our popular culture,” added producer Tony Ponturo.

David Stern, Commissioner of the NBA states, “The NBA is proud to support MAGIC/BIRD, highlighting their rivalry from rookies in the NBA to Olympic Dream Team as a story for all ages, and one that we expect to be great theater on the Broadway stage as it was on the basketball court.”

This is the second original project undertaken by Ponturo and Kirmser. Ponturo, who also is a producer of the Tony Award winning musical Memphis, is one of sports and entertainment’s most innovative and successful marketers, leading the meteoric growth of Anheuser Bush for over 25 years until his return to New York in 2009 to pursue his joint passions of sports and theater.

Kirmser built a career working with hundreds of artists developing their work to stage producing, promoting, and fundraising for non-profit and commercial theater projects including the Tony Award winning musical revival Hair, August Wilson’s Radio Golf, and in 2002 launched The Biography Project, a series of non profit Off Broadway plays that told the stories of artists in an effort to recognize their voices, better archive their work and explore their influence on culture.

Together they share a common vision of bringing new, original plays and musicals and to a wide, diverse audience of theatergoers, initially combining the drama of sports and entertainment through Kirmser/Ponturo Group. Lombardi, and now Magic/Bird are the first two products of that vision.