Plano — Like a wave of sunshine from a Greek island, Brick Road Theatre’s high energy production of the joyful jukebox musical Mamma Mia! chased away the rain and brought out the inner dancing queen in everybody in the audience at Friday’s opening night performance.
Directed and choreographed with verve by Katharine Quinn, with music direction by Isaac Leaverton, the 2001 Broadway show is inspired by the narrative energy of Swedish pop band ABBA’s international hit songs from the ’70s. Catherine Jones’s playful book takes us to a Greek island in the 1990s where pretty young Sophie (willowy heartbreaker Morgan Maxey), decides on the eve of her wedding to discover the identity of her father. She invites three possible men from her mother’s past to attend the wedding on an island they left behind 20 years ago.
The show includes nearly two dozen Abba mega-hits, including “Dancing Queen,” “Voulez-Vous” and “The Winner Takes It All.” The cast of nearly 30 actors comes out singing in full throat and dancing like there’s no tomorrow to Leaverton’s sharp seven-member orchestra, offstage but perfectly bright, thanks to Mark Howard’s sound design. Guests in the lobby at intermission who saw the 2009 movie starring Meryl Streep raved about the stars in the live show.
Leading the cast is the high-voltage mezzo Patty Breckenridge as dauntless Donna, Sophie’s tough and talented mom who raised her daughter alone, while running a small island hotel she built from an old boyfriend’s plans. When Breckenridge launches into the title song, some audience members were already singing along, at least under their breath. A multi-award-winning Dallas musical performer, Breckenridge also gives her character plenty of feminist fire in the scenes with her wild buddies from their former all-girl trio who show up for the wedding. When she belts out “The Winner Takes It All” and “S.O.S” her torch singer vibe resonates through the house as she moans about how she can’t carry on “when you’re gone.” Sing-alongs were irresistible.
Sara Shelby-Martin, a wonderfully physical comedienne, got everybody laughing as Rosie, a seen-it-all gal who propositions one of the possible fathers to “Take a Chance on Me.” Her duet with Josh Hepola, as the balding dad candidate Bill, is a hoot, with both partners grabbing for their youth and anything else in reach by the time the song ends.
Svelte blonde Cara Statham Serber is Tanya, the gorgeous triple divorcee with glamour to spare and buckets of cash, thanks to her devoted team of divorce lawyers. Serber is sexy and hilarious at once, balanced on her five-inch wedges, stalking the young barkeep Pepper (chiseled get-down dancer Kwame Lilly) in “Does Your Mother Know,” the hissing cougar’s anthem.
Maxey is a lovely singer as the young bride-to-be, opening the show with a rhythmic, hopeful “I Have a Dream,” but her Sophie also has a feisty undercurrent that rises in the second act as she and her fiancé Sky (handsome, devoted Matt Holmes) approach the wedding day.
Ensemble singers enriched every song, onstage and offstage with the orchestra, bringing the dense choral sound of ABBA to the production. Dance captain Kimberly Pine leads her fervently rambunctious troupe through the pointed-finger, funky chicken and other fun and wonky disco moves. Totally impossible to resist the cutie-pie kick line of male dancers in their hopelessly mismatched beachwear dancing their swim fins off to impress taunting Tanya. The company profiles in the program reveals the extensive training and many stage credits of this talented young cast. Of course, we all want to dance with them!
Caroline Gharis’s set design and Jessica Drayton’s warm lighting suggest an island paradise, while leaving plenty of room to revel. Costume designer Janelle Lutz, a Dallas actress usually appearing as the headliner cabaret singer, outfits all the women beautifully. She outdoes herself on the glittering silver costumes of the terrific trio in their return appearance in “Dancing Queen.” The women look exciting, comic and as seductive as a dance floor invitation on a Friday night.
Brick Road has hit productions of titles like Cabaret and Master Class, as well as underproduced gems like A Man of No Importance and The Cradle Will Rock, under their belts in recent seasons. Now Mamma Mia! has all the populist makings of sold-out performances for this young company.