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Hilarious characters in 'Mama Won't Fly' take audiences along on colorful expedition

By Lacy Hilliard
Tomahawk Writer, Photographer

The most recent production to hit the stage at Heritage Hall is the Jones Hope Wooten classic entitled, “Mama Won’t Fly.” The performance was carried out by the Johnson County Community Theater and the organization can boast yet another success.
Jones Hope Wooten is a collaboration made up of, Jesse Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten. The playwrights dedicated their lives to writing southern influenced comedies that are renowned for their quick wit and catchy punch lines. Some of the Jones Hope Wooten classics include “Southern Hospitality,” “The Hallelujah Girls,” and “Always a Bridesmaid.” Jamie Wooten is also renowned for his work on “The Golden Girls.” Though each can boast impressive solo careers, it is their work as a collaboration that has gained the most critical acclaim.

“Mama Won’t Fly” is the story of a southern family on a cross-country road trip and is mainly centered on the character Norleen Sprunt (Judy McGuire); or more affectionately known as, Mama. Mama is a bit of a meddler and her daughter, Savannah (Dorinda Walters) knows that it’s Mama’s way or the highway. In this particular scenario, it’s Mama’s way and the highway. Savannah is charged with the difficult task of seeing that Mama arrives on time at her brother, Walker’s wedding in California and while Savannah fully intends on making the trek via flying the friendly skies, Mama, however, has a different plan. At the last possible moment, Norleen informs her daughter that she has no intention of flying and instead intends to make the journey by way of her vintage sedan. Savannah and Norleen get a last minute surprise when Walker’s fiancée, Haley, shows up to make the trip with them. Having never met the bride-to-be, it was Walker’s intention that the ladies use the time to get better acquainted. The story follows their colorful expedition and there is no lack of eccentric characters along the way.

The Johnson County Community Theater performance was directed and co-directed by JCCT alumni, Amber Bauguess and Kathy Terrill. The pair worked well together to accomplish flawless casting and exceptional comedic timing. The cast praised their directors for their organization, patience, and insight and the audience reaction proved that Bauguess and Terrill are a successful compilation.

Starring in JCCT’s “Mama Won’t Fly” was Judy McGuire as Norleen Sprunt, Dorinda Walters as Savannah, and Brooklynne Dunn as Haley. The trio carried out an impressive performance and possessed excellent chemistry. McGuire was commanding, comedic, and enduring as Mama. Her ability to deliver one punch line after another without ever cracking a misplaced smile was an impressive feat in this laugh-out-loud comedy. Dorinda Walters shined in the role of the impatient but loving, Savannah. Walters never missed a beat as she navigated through a meddling mother, a lost love turned cross-dresser, and the operation of her business aptly named “Successories.” Walters recently graced the Heritage Hall stage as Maria in “The Sound of Music” and though her role in “Mama Won’t Fly” was much different than the singing governess, she captured the essence of her character and made it difficult to divert your gaze. Brooklynne Dunn was charged with playing the high-energy role of Walker’s clumsy fiancée, Haley. Dunn maintained her bubbly character impeccably and never stumbled even during the most outlandish of scenes. As she bounced across the stage causing one disaster after the next, she also managed to encompass the loveable aspect of her animated character.
There were several supporting roles in “Mama Won’t Fly” with many actors playing double and even triple roles. Don Tarr danced his way across the Heritage Hall stage playing the role of crazy Uncle Ferd. Johnson County Youth Theater director, Lisa Zeggert made an appearance as Tanya Dudley, “Mama’s” realtor and fellow community theater actress. Janet Griffith gave a hilarious performance as Essie, the curator of a foundation garment museum –or more plainly, a bra museum. Judy Walsh and Kathleen Henderson were an uproarious duo as Aunt Ardale and Aunt Rema Jean. The pair are Heritage Hall veterans and their performances are never anything short of spectacular. Walsh and Henderson both played a double role in “Mama Won’t Fly.” Walsh made a duel appearance as Aunt Ardale and Teeta, a feisty ex-showgirl that runs a ‘get hitched quick’ Las Vegas wedding chapel. Henderson carried out her spirited role as Aunt Rema Jean and also as Sybil, a furious soon-to-be ex-wife that shows up at Teeta’s chapel of love to protest her husband’s (Lyn Walker) marriage to Kiki (Karla Prudhomme), an apparent gold digger. Karla Prudhomme also played a double role as Kiki and as Juliette, a down and out barfly with clever one-liners like “My mama told me to never to go to bed angry; instead, stay up late and plot your revenge.” Michael Eggers gave an edge-of-the-seat performance as an over-caffeinated truck driver named Red. Chris Terrill and Greg Reece were a comedic duo as brothers that spent the day arguing about whether or not their local watering hole should be a cowboy bar or an Irish bar. Terrill also bravely carried out the role of Savannah’s former love turned showgirl, Spud Farley. DeLite Becker made an appearance as the sassy Great Aunt Pawnee who rises from the ashes after a most unfortunate mishap with a tub of pimento cheese. Dean Henderson played the role of Cousin Chicken; one of the Texas relatives that spends his days talking to his wife’s ashes which he keeps in a mayonnaise jar. The suspicious Officer Dugger was played by Mark Lundy and the uppity manager of the Pacific Coast Hotel was played by Greg Reece.

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