Rep’s Comedy Aims At Packer Fans

And ‘Dad’s Season Tickets’ hits the mark. Musical is funny, homey and too long.

By - Nov 2nd, 2021 04:27 pm
Milwaukee Repertory Theater presents Dad’s Season Tickets in the Stackner Cabaret October 29, 2021 – January 2, 2022. Pictured: Kelley Faulkner, Rick Pendzich, Jamie Mercado, Jonathan Gillard Daly, Sophie Grimm and Jackson Evans. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Milwaukee Repertory Theater presents Dad’s Season Tickets in the Stackner Cabaret October 29, 2021 – January 2, 2022. Pictured: Kelley Faulkner, Rick Pendzich, Jamie Mercado, Jonathan Gillard Daly, Sophie Grimm and Jackson Evans. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Dad’s Season Tickets is not a musical comedy you’ll ever see on Broadway.

That sounds like an insult but it is actually a recognition that the Milwaukee Rep’s Stackner Cabaret reopening through January 2, 2022, is aimed right where its laughter and vaudevillian pastiche is meant to schtick – in the heart of Green Bay Packers enthusiasts.

There’s no place for it on the East Coast or the West Coast — okay, maybe a few pointed jokes as far west as La Crosse, but no further. Within this geographical range, after a ferociously successful start for the concept in Door County two years ago, the Rep has gone for a regional hoot — at least for the first 90 minutes of its two-and-a-half-hour length.

Polished by a Rep production company mixing old and new faces, under director Ryan Quinn, relying on lively big voices and assured overplaying, it revisits Green Bay Packers’ most famous season under coach Mike Holmgren and the legend of the season tickets passed down within families like a magical talisman

Wisconsin-based playwright, composer and lyricist Matt Zembrowski — with a deliciously open nod to every musical-comedy and vaudeville gimmick we know, plus a wicked mélange of King Lear, British poetry clichés and the sort of family togetherness we’d all like to pretend we went through – has set the legend in a fashion both familiar in these parts and attuned to Packerland sensibilities.

The King Lear in this case is a sweet old Packer maven (lanky Rep regular Jonathan Gillard Daly, relishing the chance to let his vocal and facial talents explode all over the stage) hoping to reunite his three daughters in Packer enthusiasm before he has to make his season ticket deathbed choice. The youngest daughter (Cordy for Cordelia, get it?) tries to mend ancient anger between her two older sisters.

The audience does anticipate the laugh lines using players’ names, the rituals over TV watching, the endless homemade appetizers, the rivalries and double-takes among relatives and the harmonies and vamping reminiscent of every backup group you ever heard.

The plot and music are derivative, but in a manner we enjoy given the caliber of the performers and (let’s be honest) our fondness for Packer mania. After some amusingly exaggerated sadness to open the second act (“What Do We Do With a Bye Week?”) the musical falters as the spoofing gives way to a semi-serious attempt to resolve the family disputes in song. Zembrowski tries to make the joking style last way too long, but it is good for many stretches.

For instance, as the most Packer crazed in-law, a veteran of Milwaukee stages other than the Rep, Rick Pendzich has been given a role that perfectly fits his madcap tendencies, with a voice that mocks the basso basement while blending the baritone centers. Similarly, a newcomer to the Rep but notable in Chicago, Sophie Grimm uses her big voice and twisting features to flip off a lot of humorous poses. Kelley Faulkner, another Rep familiar, sings and mugs with aplomb, while Jamie Mercado offers polished mischief and a direct vocal style as Cordy.

As the in-law with a horrible secret (at least in terms of this story), Jackson Evans acquits himself well though the production forces him too often to play to the audience. All the performers are clearly working together in creating this broad style. The audience is the target, and we never doubt that we are.

The set by Lisa Schenker is a deceptively simple series of sofas and chairs pushed against a back wall, hiding a scoreboard and standing in for several living rooms. That allows the refurbished Stackner to seat about 180 people at tables for an elaborate new menu after being closed for 18 months during the COVID surge.

Masks are still required, and some patrons are clearly more practiced than others at how to set the masks aside to eat and put them back on to watch. Incidentally, the outer areas of the Stackner are still going through remodeling (no escalator on the first floor) and the seating and serving staff is eager but clearly still getting up to speed. The soup and salad I sampled made me wish I had made an early dinner reservation to explore the full menu and the various appetizers, which other tables were busy sampling even at the last minute.

Dad’s Season Tickets Gallery

Dominique Paul Noth served for decades as film and drama critic, later senior editor for features at the Milwaukee Journal. You’ll find his blog here and here.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us