BWW Review: MAMMA MIA! Sizzles in Icy Syracuse's Crouse Hinds Theater

BWW Review: MAMMA MIA! Sizzles in Icy Syracuse's Crouse Hinds Theater
The Company of the MAMMA MIA! Farewell Tour. Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia.

Despite the ice storm outside, the Oncenter Crouse Hinds Theater was sizzling. The famous jukebox musical, Mamma Mia!, with music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus and a book by Catherine Johnson, is the latest national tour to come to Syracuse, New York as part of the Famous Artists Broadway Theater Series. The hit musical features the songs of ABBA and, under the fabulous direction of Phllida Lloyd, a strong cast delivered energetic performances and a night of pure fun.

The story takes place on a Greek island. Sophie Sheridan (Lizzie Markson) and Sky (Dustin Harris Smith) are about to get married. The guests arrive for the wedding event and there is a secret surprise Sophia has in store for her mother, Donna (Betsy Padamonsky). Sophie has invited three additional guests - Harry (Andrew Tebo), Bill (Marc Cornes), and Sam (Shai Yammanee) - to the wedding. They are all former lovers of Donna and Sophie believes that one of them could possibly be her father based on her reading of her mom's diary dating back to the time when Donna became pregnant with her, Donna's one-and-only child. The entry of these three other men into the picture throw Donna's independent life - and the wedding - into a bit of a tizzy. It's all a whirlwind and past feelings are rekindled when Donna sees the three men once again.

The songs of ABBA are interwoven throughout the story creating an iconic jukebox musical. Musical numbers include such hits as "Dancing Queen," "Super Trouper," "Lay All Your Love on Me,""Thank You For the Music," "Money, Money, Money," and of course the title song "Mamma Mia," just to name a few. Kevin Casey and his talented band provides a source of powerful energy that gets the party going onstage. The stellar cast delivers the familiar favorites with passion and energy and the production is made all the more entertaining by Anthony Van Laast's choreography and Howard Harrison's lighting.

Betsy Padamonsky portrays Donna with such passion and power and she certainly captures the strong woman that Harry, Bill, and Sam easily fell for all those years ago. Her standout moment is "Winner Takes it All" thanks to some powerhouse vocals. The powerful chemistry between the former Dynamos (Donna's singing group) ensures the group's numbers are the highlight of the show. As such, "Chiquitita," "Dancing Queen," and "Super Trouper" don't disappoint. Each member of the Dynamos gives a memorable performance. As Rosie, Sarah Smith's comedic timing ensures that she steals every scene she's in. She has standout moments on "Take a Chance on Me" and "Chiquitita." As the seductive Tanya, Cashelle Butler entertains us with "Does Your Mother Know." She struts about the stage with her killer facial expressions and confident posture, seducing Pepper (Austin Michael).

As Sophie, Lizzie Markson brings spunk and energy to the character. Her bubbly personality and strong vocals take center stage with "Honey, Honey" along with Lisa (Niki Badua) and Ali (Chloe Kounadis). Dustin Harris Smith plays the groom-to-be, Sky, perfectly alongside Lizzie Markson. "Lay All Your Love on Me" is particularly strong.

The leading men portraying Donna's former lovers are all captivating in their own way. Shai Yammanee, as Sam Carmichael, demonstrates his amazing vocal abilities on "S.O.S." Marc Cornes, as Bill Austin, brings an amazing level of energy to the role. His perfect comedic timing helps him play off of every character he encounters. His connection with Lizzie Markson in "The Name of the Game" is highly memorable. Andrew Tebo, as Harry Bright, exudes charm with every line. He delivers a lovely rendition of "Our Last Summer" along with Padamonsky.

A very strong choral ensemble is key to the production's success. The powerful and lively vocals in the chorus and the intricate dance numbers add to each scene making the show just pure entertainment, which is definitely what the typical Mamma Mia patrons are seeking.

This farewell tour is the perfect send off for Mamma Mia! It has everything that the fans of ABBA and fans of the musical would want. The tour features powerful vocals, classic hit songs, large dance numbers, and of course spandex and platform shoes! Don't miss your last chance to say goodbye to the beloved characters and songs, especially when it features such a hardworking and passionate group of actors and dancers.

Running Time: Approximately two and half hours with one twenty minute intermission.

Guidance: Some sexual and drug references.

The Farewell tour of Mamma Mia! plays Syracuse, New York at The Oncenter Crouse Hinds Theater through January 11, 2017. For information on the Farewell tour Mamma Mia! click here. For information on upcoming events of the Famous Artists Broadway Theater Series Broadway in Syracuse click here.

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