Contributing Critic - Dallas/Ft. Worth
Brick Road Theatre’s production of “Mamma Mia!” offered the powerful and energetic blast of warm island air this rain-soaked Dallas-Fort Worth-area crowd desperately needed on an otherwise dreary Friday night. Dynamic choreography, robust vocal stylings and charging musical numbers served as the ideal backdrop for this exuberant story celebrating the joyful heartbreaking and passionate moments life throws our way.
Even before the first note of the overture sounded in this intimate Plano, Texas theatre, the diverse audience worked themselves into giddy anticipation. With this past summer’s release of the cinematic follow up to 1999’s “Mamma Mia!”, “Mamma Mia 2! Here We Go Again”, younger audiences gained an opportunity to embrace this story and connect with the venerable musical.
The curtain opened on a bright-eyed and exuberant young Sophie Sheridan, beautifully performed by Morgan Maxey, as she gleefully anticipates her upcoming wedding in this Greek island paradise. She shares the moment with two friends and lets them in a secret plan. While thumbing through her mother, Donna’s diary, she discovered the details of three separate steamy romantic encounters Donna had one summer nearly 20 years ago on the island. One of these three romantic interests, Sophie believes, may be her father. In an attempt to discover the truth, she sends wedding invites to all three men.
Unfortunately, Sophie’s strong, independent single mother, island taverna owner and former disco band frontwoman, Donna Sheridan, played by the supremely talented Patty Breckenridge, is an unwitting participant in this scheme. When Donna bumps head-first into her three former lovers, she’s thrown into an emotional turmoil which her visiting friends Tanya, skillfully performed by Cara Statham Serber, and Rosie, played by the brazen Sara Shelby-Martin, help her dig out of through a cascading series of disco-fueled ABBA hits and pep talks.
This production’s talented cast plunged deep into the sea of energy and affirmation of the joys and pleasures of life which makes this musical so widely-loved across the globe. They drove the audience wild with a wide range of passionate vocal performances, and acrobatic choreography interweaved among ABBA classics including, “Honey, Honey,” “Money Money Money,” “The Winner Takes It All,” and of course, “Dancing Queen.”
Patty Breckenridge multi-dimensional performance as Donna took the crowd on a journey through the pain of lost loves, the joy of friendship and the hopes, dreams and fears for her young daughter’s future. Ms. Breckenridge tells me her own passion for life, family and friendship made this role a natural fit for her stating, “Donna is the closest to who I am as a person. Strong, independent, sometimes stubborn, but passionate!” She is excited about the variety of theaters and diverse opportunities for actors and actresses of all ages in the Dallas-Fort-Worth metroplex.
Ms. Breckenridge began her love affair with the stage through impromptu roller skating driveway performances of numbers from “Grease,” “Urban Cowboy,” and selections from Neil Diamond.
Her male co-stars in this endeavor, Sam Carmichael, played by Kris Allen, Harry Bright, performed by Dan Servetnick and Bill Austin, played by Josh Hepola, each brought their characters to life in imaginative ways. Together they helped add gravitas and depth to the production as they traversed unfamiliar emotional terrain, each offering to give Sophie away at her wedding. While not giving too much away, the final wedding celebration takes an unexpected turn, which this cast superbly tackles with hilarity and exuberance.
The finale transformed this intimate Plano, Texas theatre into a glamorous 1970’-inspired concert arena complete with a disco ball, confetti and colorful, huge collared-disco outfits. With a rock star finish, audiences walked back into the rainy evening singing, dancing and grinning from ear to ear.
Overall, this was a delightful and high-tempo performance from a talented cast which reaffirmed that the state of the Arts here in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas is alive and well.
“Mamma Mia” stars Patty Breckenridge and Morgan Maxey.
“Mamma Mia!”, directed and choreographed by Katharine Quinn features scenic design by Caroline Gharis, costume design by Janelle Lutz, lighting design by Jessica Drayton, sound design by Mark Howard and music direction by Isaac Leaverton.
“Mamma Mia!” runs through October 28th, 2018 at the Courtyard Theater in Plano, Texas. For more information or to reserve your ticket, visit Brick Road Theatre’s website at www.brickroadtheatre.org.
Photo credit: Jason Anderson, Pendleton Photography