BWW Review: MAMMA MIA at North Shore Music Theatre
Feeling down in the dumps? A little worn out, and tired from a long summer? Ready for the Kids to just get back in school already? I have just the cure for you.
Mamma Mia! Now playing at North Shore Music Theatre (NSMT). That's right I said it! The syrupy sweet musical that no one was supposed to like, featuring music by the Swedish Rock Band Abba, which proved everyone wrong and went on to become the 8th longest running musical in London's West End history when it opened in 1999, and then became one of the hottest shows on Broadway from 2001-2015, and then launched a movie starring Meryl Streep, and the just-released sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again featuring Cher. So go on, I dare you, go and see Mamma Mia! at NSMT and try, just try, to leave without a big goofy smile plastered on your face. I bet you can't do it. It's like eating chocolate you just have to smile. It's a guilty pleasure.
The Production is expertly; cast, and directed and choreographed by Kevin P. Hill, and features Erica Mansfield as Donna Sheridan, in one of the best female performances I have ever seen at NSMT, a powerful performance highlighted in scenes featuring the songs "Slipping Through My Fingers" and "The winner takes it all" among others. The very talented supporting cast and the chorus are equally strong
But I get ahead of myself, the story begins with a 20 year old bride-to-be, Sophie, (superbly portrayed by Malia Monk with a fresh and endearing approach to the role which highlighted her amazing voice, in her NSMT debut), who is about to be married to Sky, (brilliantly portrayed by NSMT newcomer Nick Walker Jones), and wants her father to give her away. The problem is she doesn't know who her father is. Her mother, Donna, has never told her who her father is. However, a chance reading of Donna's diary from a summer 21 years ago reveals that her father could be any one of three men.
Unbeknownst to Donna, Sophie then decides to invite all three strangers to her wedding on the Greek island where she and her mother have lived since Sophie was born. So the three men, believing Donna invited them to the wedding herself, attend in the hopes of seeing Donna and re-living a bit of their past, and as they say, this is where the fun begins.
The genius in this Musical is the use of the actual Abba songs, largely unaltered, to give voice to the characters feelings, motivations and to help further the plot without contrivance is the key to the Musical's success, and for those of us of a certain age it takes you right back to the mid-seventies and early eighties era. A true blast from the past.
The standouts in the cast are numerous. Tiffany Barbour as Rosie, with her strong voice and comic acting skills, was solid gold, and Tari Kelly as Tayna with her upper-crust attitude, lascivious ways, and amazing voice was a classic, and both excelled in the number "Chiquitita" while dancing and clowning their way around Donna to try to cheer her up when she discovered that her three ex-husbands have suddenly and unexpectedly shown up on the island the day before the wedding. Likewise, Ms. Barbour was excellent in the scene with the first possible father Bill, (Portrayed by Al Bundonis) with equally excellent comic timing achieved hilarious results with the song "Take a chance on me" as they discover they may have feelings, or maybe just lust, for each other. Ms. Kelly's stand out scene was set to the song "Does your Mother Know" as she teases and at the same time repels the advances of a bartender half her age. The second possible father, Harry, (hilariously portrayed by Christopher Carl), a former headbanger heavy metal singer turned London Banker, really shone in the song "Our Last Summer" with Donna, as they tenderly recall their shared moments during that fateful summer. Finally, the show-stopping number featured the song "The Winner takes it all" with the third possible father Sam Carmichael (portrayed by David Elder) and Donna, as they fight past anger and hurt, and struggle with their true feelings for each other. Their equally strong voices, tight harmonies and truly "in the moment acting" was breathtaking, and this scene alone is well worth the price of admission. Mr. Elder was a stand out in his own right with the song "Knowing Me Knowing You" as he counsels Sophie on her own marriage dilemma.
Next, the chorus deserves a shout, out as does Mr. Hill's excellent choreography. They danced and sang every number full out, and it was exhilarating to watch, especially the bachelor party men, who managed to superbly tap dance in swim fins while wearing neon wetsuits, masks, and snorkels.
Finally, the costumes designed by Dana Pinkston were a perfect 80's period look and added great comic flair and throwback fun to the appropriate comic scenes. Likewise, the understated and effective scenic design by Kyle Dixon and the mood-setting lighting design by Jose Santiago were perfect. The NSMT orchestra expertly conducted by Music Director Bob Bray was the backbone of the show and were a huge part of the show's appeal and success.
So for a perfect summer escape, and a fun nostalgia trip, go see Mamma Mia! At North Shore Music Theatre.
Tickets for MAMMA MIA! Are priced starting from $59 - $84. Performances are August 7 -September 2, 2018, Tue - Thurs at 7:30 pm, Fri & Sat at 8 pm, matinees Wed, Sat, and Sun at 2 pm. Kids 18 and under save 50% at all performances. For tickets and information call (978) 232-7200, visit www.nsmt.org, or visit the box office in person at 62 Dunham Rd., Beverly, MA. MAMMA MIA! Is sponsored by Beverly Bank.
Additional Free Audience Enrichment events: Meet the Theatre: post-show audience discussion with the artists on August 14 after the 7:30 pm performance and August 18 after the 2 pm performance; OUT at the North Shore, an evening for the Gay and Lesbian Community with a post-show reception (sponsored in part by Ryan & Wood Inc.) on August 16 after the 7:30 pm performance.
North Shore Music Theatre will continue the 2018 musical season with Jekyll & Hyde starring Constantine Maroulis and Diana DeGarmo (September 25 - October 7), Hairspray (October 30 - November 11), and the 28th annual production of A Christmas Carol starring David Coffee (December 7 - 23).