BWW Review: MAMMA MIA! Performs at The Central New York Playhouse

BWW Review: MAMMA MIA! Performs at The Central New York Playhouse
Stephanie Straub, Martikah Williams, and Chelsea Lembo with the male ensemble of the CNY Playhouse production of Mamma Mia.
Photo by Amelia Beamish/AB Photography

Local talent Stephfond Brunson has brought none other than the global smash hit musical Mamma Mia! to life at the daring "theater in the mall," otherwise known as The Central New York Playhouse. Thanks to Brunson's direction and high energy choreography, the catchy and pure fun musical built around the music of ABBA is, without a doubt, entertaining.

Featuring music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus and some songs with Stig Anderson and a book by Catherine Johnson, Mamma Mia! tells the story of Sophie (Hali Greenhouse), a young girl about to get married in the Greek Isles. Sophie desperately wants to have the perfect white wedding, but to do that she needs to have her Dad there to walk her down the aisle. As she does not know who her father is, she invites her three possible Dads. Sophie's mother Donna (Becky Bottrill) is definitely surprised when the three men appear in the place where she has so much history. Luckily Donna has her two best friends to lean on as she deals with men of her past walking back into the life that she has made for herself and her daughter on her own.

Brunson's vision and blocking, and Christopher James Lupia's minimalist set allow for the show to progress smoothly. The overall visual appeal of the show is a definite standout.

Unfortunately, the sound issues in the theater once again proved distracting and often took away from some scenes. Also, on the night I attended some microphones were still on when the actors were offstage, so the audience could hear actors talking backstage. Other times, the actors' microphones were not turned on at the right time for a song or line, which made it hard to hear.

These issues aside, the cast was certainly having a blast performing the show, backed by Music Director Abel Searor's onstage musicians who brought the catchy tunes to life. The energy, heart, and hard work they all put into their performances is something they should all be proud of - and they each deliver an entertaining performance.

Hali Greenhouse lights up the stage in the role of Sophie Sheridan. Greenhouse, with her light blonde hair, wide-eyed expressions, sweet yet powerful voice, and spunky confidence, possesses everything one would expect for the role of Sophie. This is made immediately apparent when she opens the show with the beautiful number "I Have a Dream (Prologue)." She shows spunk in "Honey, Honey," charm in "Thank You For the Music," and demonstrates real emotion in "Under Attack." Her standout number "The Name of the Game" (performed along with Garrett Robinson as Bill Austin, one of the three possible Dads) is stellar. Greenhouse's vocals, confidence, and consistency enable her to steal the spotlight.

All three of the actors portraying Sophie's three possible Dads Sam Carmichael (Robert G. Searle), Bill Austin (Garret Robinson), and Harry Bright (Matt Green) also stole the spotlight again and again. They possess the top-notch vocals, spot on line delivery, confidence, and charm that are much needed in the roles. Robert G. Searle delivers clear and confident vocals in "S. O. S." and performs a stellar rendition of "Knowing Me, Knowing You." Searle once again proves what a talented actor and singer he truly is. Garret Robinson also charms in the number "Take a Chance on Me" alongside Krystal Wadsorth as Rosie. Matt Green's well-trained vocals and his amusing expressions make "Thank You For the Music" and "Our Last Summer" quite memorable.

Becky Bottrill delivers an entertaining performance of the role of Donna, particularly in the musical numbers she performs alongside her fellow cast members. Look no further than the always crowd-pleasing numbers "Chiquitita" and "Dancing Queen" - also featuring Stephanie Straub as Tanya and Krystal Wadsworth as Rosie - as examples of how the three ladies certainly have the chemistry and charm to pull them off well. Unfortunately, once Act II came around (a point where Donna usually steals the show), Bottrill's vocals were often off key and forced on the night I attended - especially in "The Winner Takes It All" and very weak in "One of Us."

Krystal Wadsworth delivers a comedic, spunky, and memorable performance as Rosie proving she is a truly "super trouper" performer, she just stepped into the role due to the original cast member's (Shannon Tompkins) unfortunate injury that occurred about a week ago.

Other standout moments include Stephanie Straub in the seductive and confident number "Does Your Mother Know?" alongside TJ Cravens as a very amusing Pepper. Will Masiclat, as Sky, delivers a fun performance of "Lay All Your Love on Me" along with the ensemble. Other memorable numbers include "Voulez Vous," and "Gimme Gimme Gimme," which feature the very talented ensemble and showcase Brunson's keen eye for choreography.

Mamma Mia! at the Central New York Playhouse is a fun show with a lot of heart and talent. You can't help but be entertained by the catchy and familiar tunes. Brunson's direction and vision for the show are key ingredients to success and there are also many stellar performances. Are there flaws? Yes. Does the production entertain and bring joy like theater is supposed to do? Absolutely Yes.

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

Mamma Mia! runs through March 2, 2019 at The Central New York Playhouse at Shoppingtown Mall at 3649 Erie Boulevard East, Syracuse, NY 13214. For tickets and information on this production and upcoming productions, click here.

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From This Author Natasha Ashley

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