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BWW Review: DAD'S SEASON TICKETS is a Love Letter to Packer Nation at the MILWAUKEE REP

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Feel-Good, Family-Friendly & Funny As Can Be

BWW Review: DAD'S SEASON TICKETS is a Love Letter to Packer Nation at the MILWAUKEE REP

At the intersection of Packer fandom, Wisconsin pride, and musical theater lies Dad's Season Tickets. With book, music, and lyrics by Milwaukeean Matt Zembrowski, it's a heartwarming, hilarious, and adorable romp that first premiered at Door County's Northern Sky Theater in 2019 and is now selling fast at the Milwaukee Rep. It's the company's first real return to live theater in 18 months. Directed by Wisconsin native Ryan Quinn with a dynamite cast and family-friendly vibe, you don't have to be a Packers fan to enjoy this musical. But if you do get starry-eyed over the '97 Super Bowl, you're in for an extra-special treat.

Dad's Season Tickets is set in Green Bay during the glory of the Pack's 1996-1997 season -- which, spoiler, ends with Brett Favre taking the team all the way. For those who aren't football-philes, the opening number "When You Live in Green Bay" brings you up to speed with a quick rundown of Packers history.

The show follows the Kosinkis, a family of cheeseheads living in Titletown, U.S.A. Their mother is sadly no longer with them. The titular Dad is planning to update his will, leading his three daughters to wonder who will inherit his Packers season tickets. The two grown daughters -- one a Packers fanatic, the other a Mama's girl -- haven't seen eye to eye in years. The youngest, about to fly the coop for college, wants to solve the mystery of her older sisters' strained relationship. All of this plays out over a series of Packers game days.

As the head of the Kosinski family, Jonathan Gillard Daly is a perfect choice. Daly is, in his way, a beloved father of the Milwaukee stage. In the play, Dad gets a new lease on life after watching It's a Wonderful Life and adopting a refreshed and rosy George Bailey-esque outlook. I think a lot of Wisconsinites will see a glimpse of their own dad in this character -- for me, it was the excitement over Packers pretzels. Daly captures that exuberant, George Bailey post-Clarence energy, bringing endearing fatherly charm, optimism, and humor to the role.

The three daughters are the eldest Rhonda (Kelley Faulkner), middle Gabby (Sophie Grimm), and youngest Cordy (Jamie Mercado). We meet Mercado first, the only member of the original 2019 cast. Now making her Milwaukee Rep debut, Mercado is one to watch -- and listen to. Her voice is particularly lovely and her presence, bright.

Grimm as middle daughter Gabby is easily the funniest of the bunch. Gabby is the Packers-obsessed daughter who feels Dad's season tickets belong to her, by virtue of her extreme fandom. Gabby is pregnant and prone to dramatics, and Grimm's pregnancy hysterics are, well, hysterical. When she leans into the operatic range of her voice, usually for melodramatic effect, it's clear that Grimm is the whole package: awesome voice, killer comedic instincts.

Milwaukee Rep favorite Kelley Faulkner rounds out the wonderful trio as eldest daughter Rhonda -- the one who would rather help Mom make game-day snacks than go see a game with Dad. Faulkner brings her signature spark and spirit to the part, giving us a Rhonda for anyone who isn't crazy about sports, but still values how game day brings people together. Falkner is also the show's Movement Director. In the end, when you put all three of these talented women together, you get some simply superb harmonies and an ample dose of heart.

Sisters Gabby and Rhonda are each married -- Gabby to English professor Edgar (Jackson Evans) and Rhonda to Packers fanatic Ralph (Rich Pendzich). It's tempting to refer to these fellows as their ladies' "better half," but I think that's thanks to the script and the way these characters are used throughout the musical. Given that they're not really a part of the very central Kosinkski family drama, these men are largely free to reel in laugh after laugh -- and boy do they ever.

From his elastic facial expressions to the breadth of his voice, Pendzich shows immense range. Having seen Pendzich in a number of shows over the years, it's always a treat to find his name attached to a cast list, for you can count on top-notch theatrics and big, honest laughs. The Pendzich we get in Dad's Season Tickets is no exception.

However, Evans gives Pendzich a run for his money in the laughs department. As geeky English Professor and husband to Gabby, Evan's Edgar ends up being the ultimate and unexpected side-splitter. Perhaps it's because the character of Edgar, with all his poetic musings, offers a necessary reprieve from the Packers madness and Wisconsin shtick. As Edgar, Evans brings balance to Dad's Season Tickets as he deftly charms the more-traditional theatergoers and literature lovers in the audience.

Even better than taking any one of these actors on their own is enjoying them together. Grimm and Evans share adorable, highly amusing chemistry as Gabby and Edgar. Faulkner and Pendzich's "Football is Like Love" is a crowd favorite, particularly once the dreamy backup dancers get involved. And whether a song asks "What Do You Do With a Bye Week?" or reminds us that "When the Packers play, put your troubles away," there's lots of entertaining, toe-tapping numbers to be had.

Scenic and lighting design by Lisa Schlenker and Cor Valentine-Christophe, respectively, also deserves some love. They give us three homes on one stage, thanks to clever staging and lighting. The picture window at the Kosinski family home doubles as a Packers scoreboard to great effect. Sound designer Eric Backus helps immerse our senses in the world of the game, taking us from the roar of Lambeau Field to the more-muffled sounds of Away games watched on a 90s television set. And lastly, costume designer Debra Krajec has assembled some killer fashion from bad sweaters to so-called mom jeans to -- a particular standout -- Ralph's disgusting lucky jersey that looks increasingly putrid as the musical goes on.

And speaking of jerseys: feel free to wear yours when you see Dad's Season Tickets. There's so much Wisconsin pride packed into the Cabaret, and you're certainly encouraged to wear yours on your sleeve. Dad's Season Tickets celebrates the sports heritage that connects all Wisconsinites, as well as the traditions we share with our families. If you watch the Packers even a little, this feel-good musical promises a glimpse into that world -- and it's always fun to see even a tiny reflection of yourself on stage. Still up for debate: Are the exaggerated Wisconsin accents on-point or a bit distracting? But no matter. This show is a love letter to Packer Nation and America's Dairyland. Imagine what that looks like, add some well-timed jazz hands, and that's exactly what you get.

Bonus pro tip: If you're having trouble finding tickets to the show, check Packers game days for the best availability.

Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow


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