When my brother was eight, sitting in the Winter Garden Theater seeing "Cats" with my father, he told him that one day he would be on Broadway. And a decade later, when my brother opened in a Broadway show, my dad was there. That show was "Mamma Mia," and ends its run tonight after 5,765 shows. Tonight Ryan will join hundreds of former Broadway cast members from around the world, flying in to say goodbye.
A lot of people have written about the show as a hit, and it was. (Here's the NYT story -- see if you can spot Mr. Shaw.)Who doesn't love to celebrate the hit songs of ABBA, the glory of spandex, and some audience participation? EVERYONE DOES.
For my family, the show means something more. For us it was about seeing someone we love go for his lifelong goal, and make it. As a kid, my parents took my brother to the stage doors for him tho get his Playbills signed -- his request. Later he exited through those same doors, with little kids asking for his autograph.
It was willpower, dedication, long hours in dance studios and classrooms at North Carolina School of the Arts (now the University of the North Carolina School of The Arts).. It was injuries and auditions and rejections. It happened with the loving, unrelenting support of my parents, who drove him to practices, believed in their son who wanted to study ballet, who sometimes drove them crazy (!), he did it.
My brother has always been a superstar, with people drawn to him. As much as I was proud of his success in the show, I'm proud of who he has become after. I think he learned that in part from the daily challenges of the stage. To keep smiling no matter what the challenge. That spandex and dancing can cure a whole lot.
"Mamma Mia" was mixed in with many memories of my 20s -- Ryan leading us on the dance floor during "Dancing Queen" at my wedding and going backstage at the Winter Garden with friends and family. This included one trip in 2005 when I was pregnant with Nate. Standing on the stage of the Winter Garden that night I though it takes something else to stand in that spotlight.
So, to Ryan and to all of his cast mates, crew, and the families who supported them: Thank You For The Music.
Now, on to the next act.
And for a final sendoff, here he is, in the Mamma Mia Montage, now and forever. (The very blonde one.)