You probably never notice the resemblance between Shepherd and Vince Lombardi before, but Lauria, in his second Broadway wind, covers both with the greatest of ease.
Shepherd presents slightly more of a problem. "With this show, it was a little harder. I could do his voice better but it doesn't quite go with the music sometimes."
His Tony-nominated Mrs. Lombardi, Judith Light, gave her blessing. "She flew in last night to see the show, and loved it. She was crying at the end. She's a softie, though. The show's a crowd-pleaser. We were surprised how well we did with ticket sales during the previews. We're almost sold out, and there's good word-of-mouth."
Fifth-billed among the show's 15 producers is Peter Billingsley, who is stuck indelibly in our memory back as the original Ralphie of the 1983 movie. He couldn't have been more euphoric. "It's been a heck of a journey. Tonight was extremely exciting. It's opening night on Broadway, my first — I'll never have a first one again.
"The movie was 30 years ago. When I heard about the musical three years ago, I got on board. It's a terrific idea. The tone of the story lends itself so well to song and dance in so many ways. There's a lot of emotion in the movie, but the music gives you a chance to go there. We just go a little further to places the movie didn't quite do."
His immediate plans are well laid-out. "We're going to keep this going [as an annual attraction] a few years, and I have a TV show on CBS called 'Sullivan and Son' that stars Dan Lauria, so I'll go back to work on that right after the first of the year."