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Jim Williams: A classic sports rivalry turns into Broadway hit

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Sports,Jim Williams

Back when Thomas Kail was a kid growing up in Alexandria and going to school at Sidwell Friends in Washington, he loved all sports. He played soccer and baseball in high school and went to Redskins, Wizards/Bullets and Orioles games.

Now 15 years later, Kail is one of the hottest directors on Broadway. He has done some truly outstanding work, including directing the hit Broadway musical "In the Heights," which garnered him a Tony Award nomination for best direction of a musical. He's also mixed sports and theatre by directing "Lombardi," the story of the legendary Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins coach.

His newest production, "Magic/Bird," is a play showing on Broadway about the relationship between Hall of Famers Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

What is "Magic/Bird" about?

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 the play moves quickly. My goal is to stay true to their story but to really capture the essence of why these two men became such good friends and a big part of each other's lives."

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 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 with these great stories."

Do you keep up with the Washington sports teams?

Kail »

"Yes, I follow the Redskins, and I really love that they could get RG III. He is a great kid and would be a great fit. I love watching John Wall, and I hope to see the Wizards turn things around because I enjoy the whole area around the Verizon Center. I can't wait to get back to Washington and go to see the Nationals with my dad this summer."

Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Check out his blog, Watch this!

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