Music and Lyrics by Benny Andersson & Bjorn Ulvaeus
Book by Catherine Johnson
Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players
Director - Kate Hicks
Producer - Hazel R. Bell
Music Director - B. Weslee Vance
Choreographer - Keli Price
Stage Manager - Amber Winnett
Sound Designer - Mik Brown
Costume Designer - Becki Esch
Lighting Designer - Alan Meadows
Scenic Artists - Mayre Stewart & Maureen Benke
Set Construction - Mik Brown & Hunter Stepherson
Sophie Sheridan - Alyson Kessinger
Ali - Melissa Elkins
Lisa - Emma Shirley
Tanya - Emily Bailey
Rosie - Becki Esch
Donna Sheridan - Kat Endsley
Sky - David Lasater
Pepper - Jared Kyle
Eddie - Isaac Nunez
Harry Bright - Miles Emerson
Bill Austin - Micky Shearon
Sam Carmichael - Andrew Guzman
Father Alexandrios - Rick Briscoe
Company - Mason Asberry, Maureen Benke, Emma Britain, Jake Fulton, Darrah Gomes, Michelle Holcomb, Erin Ivey, Tina Jordan, Chloe Kemp, Karen McCarty, Priscilla Nix, Zoe Phillips, Vanessa Poole, Amaya Russell, Jessica Schilcher, Quentin Scott, Mallory Sellers, Erin Shirley, Riley Wolfe
Director - B. Weslee Vance
Lead Guitar - Nicholas Hefner
Acoustic Guitar - Dr. Ted Benke
Bassist - Eleazar Vizcaino
Percussion - Tim House
Keyboard - Hazel R. Bell
Reviewed Performance: 6/30/2019
Reviewed by Rebecca Roberts, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
There is truly nothing in the world that gets you grooving in your seat quite like a musical entirely comprised of ABBA music. Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players’ production of MAMMA MIA! is a fun take on this unfailingly entertaining musical. Director Kate Hicks opened the performance I attended by sharing with the audience her dream of directing this musical since it first came out, 20 years ago. Hicks’ long-held enthusiasm and passion for this show was clearly evident in her direction of the production. It’s always lovely to witness someone fulfilling a lifelong dream.
The show opens with Sophie Sheridan (Alyson Kessinger) telling her friends (Melissa Elkins & Emma Shirley) that she has invited her father to her upcoming wedding. The only problem? She isn’t sure who her father is. But based on her mother’s diary, there are three possible contenders…so she invites them all! Kessinger led the show beautifully, with a powerful voice and a sweet demeanor. Even though she was a little too young to be playing the role of Sophie, she didn’t let that diminish her commanding stage presence. She vocally matched everyone else on stage with obvious ease.
A clear foil to Sophie and her two friends is Sophie’s mother, Donna (Kat Endsley), and her two friends, Tanya (Emily Bailey) and Rosie (Becki Esch). Endsley’s performance as Donna was heartfelt and beautiful. She hit each comedic and emotional beat flawlessly. And through her performance, the audience could feel her struggle between letting go of her daughter and opening herself back up to love. Endsley’s show stopping performance of “The Winner Takes It All” was a definite highlight of the production. Bailey and Esch shared comedic sidekick duties as the cynical divorcee Tanya and equally cynical but eternally single Rosie. Their voices mixed beautifully with Endsley’s during their multiple trio numbers, creating the perfect and extremely believable reunited girl band sound.
Another trio of characters is Sophie’s fiancé Sky (David Lasater) and his scene stealing friends Pepper (Jared Kyle) and Eddie (Isaac Nunez). Unfortunately, even though Lasater’s performance was very amiable and sincere, he and Kessinger had very little romantic chemistry, which made their scenes together more awkward than passionate. However, if you’re hoping for chemistry, look no further than Kyle and Nunez’s beautiful onstage bromance. They played off each other extremely well, and were sure to brighten any scene they were in. Additionally, Jared Kyle’s lovestruck performance of “Does Your Mother Know?” created yet another level of chemistry alongside Emily Bailey as Tanya. Her steady vocals and his steamy, yet not exactly suave, physicality were a dynamic combination.
The three potential fathers in contention are as follows: Harry Bright (Miles Emerson) the British banker, Bill Austin (Micky Shearon) the adventurous author, and Sam Carmichael (Andrew Guzman) the architect that broke Donna’s heart 21 years ago. All three had moments to shine during the show with their delightful voices and distinctive personalities. Emerson played the button-down personality perfectly, but also had fun in moments where he was able to let loose. Shearon led a clear crowd favorite performance of “Take A Chance On Me” alongside Becki Esch, as the two’s blossoming attraction comes to a head right before Sophie’s wedding. And Guzman, although a little too young to be playing a convincing potential father (as someone who played multiple grandmother roles between the ages of 14-18, I can spot eyeliner forehead wrinkle lines and gray hairspray a mile away), gave a truly beautiful and genuine performance. His deep regret in letting Donna get away all those years ago was clear in Guzman’s affectations and emotional resonance – especially in his powerful duet with Donna, “SOS.”
Director Hicks was joined by music director, B. Weslee Vance, in developing this production. Vance did an excellent job coaching his actors on how to perform classic pop music (always an iffy thing when working with musical theatre performers). Every single lead actor’s vocals were so powerful and truly the highlight of this techno disco filled musical. Additionally, all the actors were shockingly able to stay perfectly in time, even though the orchestra’s tempo was consistently scattered and disruptive. Keli Price was also part of the creative team, as the choreographer. While her choreography was definitely effective, she recycled quite a few moves and choices throughout the show. Price really did not make an effort to complicate the songs with any difficult choreography, aside from a few choice moments here and there. The audience did, however, get quite a kick out of the flipper chorus line in “Lay All Your Love On Me,” which led to their enthused laughter and uproarious applause.
Not only did Becki Esch delight us on the stage, she also held the role of costume designer offstage! Unfortunately, the costumes only covered the bare minimum, and oftentimes it felt as though the production’s wardrobe was entirely sponsored by Old Navy. Many of the pieces felt as though they had been pulled from each actor’s personal closet. And absolutely no consistent time period was clearly represented in the costumes (typically a vital area in which to clue the audience in on when the production is supposed to be taking place). However, the scenic design – led by artists Mayre Stewart and Maureen Benke, and builders Mik Brown and Hunter Stepherson – was classic and just right. The building fronts were exactly what you would expect to see on a Greek island. And all aspects of the set were used effectively to convey location. The scenic painting was also done quite well and gave the scenic elements excellent depth.
Join the mayhem as Sophie prepares for her wedding and tries to figure out who her father is…all while underscored by the only music that you don’t mind getting stuck in your head for weeks afterwards because it’s just so dang fun. Support local theatre and go see the closing weekend of Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players’ production of MAMMA MIA!
Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players
(Cleburne Conference Center)
1501 W Henderson St
Cleburne, TX 76033
Plays through July 7th.
Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm; Saturdays and Sunday at 2:30pm.
All tickets are $20.
For more information and to purchase tickets, go to carnegieplayers.org or email their box office at email@example.com.