MAMMA MIA!Music and Lyrics by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus
And some songs with Stig Anderson
Book by Catherine Johnson
Dallas Summer Musicals
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd
Music Direction by Kevin Casey
Musical Supervisor, Additional Material and Arrangements by Martin Koch
Choreography by Anthony Van Laast
Production designed by Mark Thompson
Lighting designed by Howard Harrison
Sound designed by Andrew Bruce and Bobby Aitken
Music Director/Keyboard 1 – Kevin Casey
Associate Music Director/Keyboard 2 – Enrico De Trizio
Guitar 1 – David Malachowski
Guitar 2 – Paul Heaney
Vass – Marcel Hamel
Drums – Oskar Haggdahl
CAST (on reviewed performance evening)
Sophie Sheridan --- Chelsea Williams
Ali --- Emily Price
Lisa --- Antoinette Comer
Tanya --- Gabrielle Mirabella
Rosie --- Carly Sakolove
Donna Sheridan --- Rebecca Mason-Wygal (Understudy)
Sky ---Eric Presnall
Pepper --- P. Tucker Worley
Eddie --- Kyle Dupree
Harry Bright --- Mark A. Harmon
Bill Austin --- Michael Colavolpe
Sam Carmichael --- Jeff Drushal
Father Alexandrios --- Royce James McIntosh
The Ensemble --- Anthony Alfaro, Francesca Arostegui, Ken Arpino, Grace Leszynski, Todd MacIntyre, Royce James McIntosh, Tyler McKenzie, Brynn Smith, Josh LaMonte Switzer, Bonne Tomlinson, Jennifer Wingerter, Vince Wingerter, Lauren Wright
Swings – Meghan Glogower, Andrew J. Koslow, Danny Lopez, Carly Wielstein
Photo Credit: MAMMA MIA! North American Tour 2013 by Kevin Thomas Garcia
Reviewed Performance: 6/3/2014
Reviewed by Chris Jackson, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
And again and again and again! Mamma Mia! has been running somewhere in the world, often many places simultaneously, since the first performance at the Prince Edward Theatre in London’s West End on April 6th,1999. Currently the ninth longest-running Broadway show, it transferred from the Winter Garden Theatre, where it opened in October of 2001, to the Broadhurst Theatre on November 2nd, 2013. I had never seen the show on stage, but gathering by the conversations I overheard beforehand, at intermission and after the performance, many, many people in the audience were seeing the show again, some after several times. It has toured in the Dallas-Fort Worth area before, and the popularity of the show is not hard to understand. It’s got great music, mystery, comedy, heartwarming moments, terrific dance numbers, and a happy ending. What’s not to like?!
This stage musical, written by British playwright Catherine Johnson is, of course, based on the songs of ABBA, composed by band members Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. The title is from their 1975 chart-topper, and both were involved in the development of the show from the beginning. ABBA was a Swedish pop/dance group active from 1972 to 1982 and one of the most internationally beloved pop groups of all time.
The press release sums up the plot like this: “An independent, single mother who owns a small hotel on an idyllic Greek island, Donna is about to let go of Sophie, the spirited daughter she’s raised alone. …On a quest to find the identity of her father to walk her down the aisle, (Sophie) brings back three men from Donna’s past. …Over 24 chaotic, magical hours, new love will bloom and old romances will be rekindled on this lush island full of possibilities.”
As you enter the Music Hall theatre space, you are greeted by a proscenium of what might be lighted columns (Greek setting) and/or elements from an old time juke box, a perfect combination to frame this tale. The curtain is more of a flat screen with wavy lines of light projected in shades of blue-green, the color of the Aegean Sea. As the overture begins, the lines of light start to undulate, and soon we are on the Greek island where a wedding is about to take place. This first scene is the prologue, three months before the wedding, and we are introduced to twenty-year-old Sophie Sheridan, the bride to be. “I have a dream, a fantasy to help me through reality…. I believe in angels, something good in everything I see,” she sings. Without consulting her mother, she mails letters to three men who might be her father, inviting them to her wedding in Donna’s name. She shares the intimate details of her mother’s diary with her two friends, Ali and Lisa, (“Honey, Honey”) explaining how she discovered the potential father’s names and setting up the conflict and premise for the show.
In the role of Sophie is Chelsea Williams, a talented actress and singer who gives her character levels by showing us the vulnerable as well as the take-charge side of Sophie. She sings and moves with assurance and grace and seems comfortable at the center of the story. Sophie’s friends are played by Emily Price as Ali and Antoinette Comer as Lisa. The two play buddies with lots of energy and enthusiasm and also dance and sing well. The three actresses make you believe in their long time friendship with little looks, touches and shared reactions. Their scenes together are delightful, fast-paced, active and set the tone for the rest of the evening.
The next scene takes place the day before the wedding and we see understudy Rebecca Mason-Wygal playing Donna, the mother-of-the-bride, as she prepares to meet her old friends at her taverna. Soon Tanya, the wealthy one married and divorced three times, played by Gabrielle Mirabella, and Rosie, the unmarried and carefree one, played by Carly Sakolove, arrive in a burst of “take charge of the stage” presence. Ms. Mason-Wygal seems very comfortable playing Donna and moves with no-nonsense direction, taking the forward action between her teeth and guiding it without hesitation. Dressed in overalls, she sings and moves with confidence, making one feel no discomfort at her being an understudy. Her rendition of the title song when she sees the three men from her past for the first time is terrific and great fun.
Ms. Morabella and Ms. Sakolove both seem to be having a marvelous time with their rather broad characters, Tanya and Rosie, filling the moments with character business and fleshing those out with every expression and gesture. They are not at all afraid to take their chances to shine, and indeed appear to relish them. Constantly moving and posing, they sing and dance with great aplomb. The friends have reunited, and the ABBA-like Donna and the Dynamos are back together again, complete with 70’s spangled Lycra jumpsuits and wedge boots! Numbers like “Chiquitita” and “Dancing Queen” give the two ladies opportunities to strut their stuff, and strut they do!
Sky, the groom-to-be played by Chris Stevens, and his buddies and tavern workers, Pepper and Eddie, played by P. Tucker Worley and Kyle Dupree respectively make a fun entrance, laughing and kidding each other, establishing their friendship. Mr. Stevens is tall, charming, dances and sings well, and makes a fine, upstanding groom. His scenes with his bride-to-be Miss Williams are quite believable. The chemistry between the two works and the love story feels real. His rendition of “Lay All Your Love on Me” is lovely. The antics of Mr. Worley and Mr. Dupree do much to keep the quick-paced musical moving with humor and skill, dancing, flipping and singing up a storm.
The three men who just might be Sophie’s dad each create a distinct persona by their stance, gestures and vocal mannerisms. They are Harry, the British banker played by Mark A. Harmon, Bill, a writer and adventurer played by Michael Colavolpe, and Sam, an architect played by Jeff Drushal. Mr. Drushal has a deep-speaking voice that sounds like he’d be great at voiceover work and a strong, masculine stage presence that offers layers of character without overplaying any one aspect. His singing voice is surprisingly tenor or high baritone. Mr. Colavolpe is tall, brash and confident, filling his character with good humor, later put to terrific use in his scene (“Take a Chance on Me”) with Ms. Sakolove. Mr. Harmon is suitably more reserved and less outgoing as the British banker, although his accent leaves something to be desired. Together, the men create a fine trio, demonstrating various types of potential fatherhood that just might end up with one of them walking Sophie down the aisle.
The ensemble is filled with talented singer/dancers who exude energy, talent and stage presence. The big choral and dance numbers pop and thrill with their precision and personality. The guys doing their number in flippers and snorkel masks and the girls at the hen party before the wedding give all the members of this chorus an opportunity to have a good time and involve the audience in their obvious love of performing. The big “Voulez-Vous” number that ends Act One brings down the house.
The production is designed by Mark Thompson, and the fairly simple set of two units that turn and reconfigure to form exteriors and interiors is attractive, clever and immanently suitable and usable. White stuccoed slab walls with small square windows and blue doors are reminiscent of Greek hillside villages and provide levels with which to work. A tree branch silhouette flies in at two different heights for outdoor or indoor scenes, along with a chandelier for the church and strings of lights for the party scene. Chairs, tables, a bed, etc, are brought in and removed by the performers quickly and smoothly in the musical transitions.
Costume design is uncredited in the program, and so I assume Mr. Thompson is responsible for them also. They are primarily in shades of aquamarine, blue, white, beige and tan in the first act and then pops of bright orange and hot pink show up in the second. Characters are linked by color, such as Sam and Donna in black in the second act, Bill and Rosie in orange, and Sky and Sophie in white. The dream/nightmare sequence that opens the second act has the chorus in bright glow-in-the-dark neon. Mr. Thompson again shows us his wonderful use of color and form throughout to tell and enhance the story.
Lights by Howard Harrison are used to shift focus as well as set time and place, and the use of gobos early on and rock concert-style lighting during the finale completes the heightened reality of this stage musical. Sound design by Andrew Bruce and Bobby Aitken is fine though it starts out uncomfortably loud and sometimes drowns out the solo singers. Choreography by Anthony Van Laast is inventive, fun, and filled with youthful drive and also with great period dance moves and hand gestures for the Dynamos.
Phyllida Lloyd’s direction is precise, clean, moment-conscious and focused, keeping the activity constant, the eye-appeal foremost, and guiding her actors to the edge of caricature without going over. Each beat is super clear, with music, lights and actors perfectly timed to place the button at the end of a scene or song and move the show on. How much of the movement and spacing is hers and how much Mr. Laast’s is unclear, but the production is obviously well-conceived and executed with a clear vision as to its goal, and filled with the best kind of musical comedy energy.
This current touring production of Mamma Mia! is a bright, exciting, slick, well-produced and well-executed evening of fun and entertainment. The audience on opening night was thrilled, clapping and swaying with enthusiasm at the familiar tunes and enjoying every moment. This is musical show business at its best, with heart, soul and rock ‘n roll to spare.
Dallas Summer Musicals
The Music Hall at Fair Park
901 1st Avenue,
Dallas, TX 75210
Runs through June 15th
NOTE: Mamma Mia! contains some adult humor and situations. Recommended for ages 11 and up.
Tuesday – Sunday at 7:00 pm, and Saturday -Sunday at 1:30 pm
There is no 7:30 performance on Sunday, June 15th.
Tickets range from $25.25 to $96.75
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.dallassummermusicals.org or call The Box Office at 214-421-5678.