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Review: MAMMA MIA! at Fairfield Center Stage

Featuring Swedish Group Abba's Music

Review: MAMMA MIA! at Fairfield Center Stage

On Friday, October 15, I had the pleasure of seeing yet another phenomenal production by Fairfield Center Stage, an innovative theatre company that continues to go that extra mile to bring the audience fresh new experiences with familiar shows that Fairfield Center Stage brings to life in positive ways that the audience has never seen before. Here we go, again, with MAMMA MIA!, which is written by Catherine Johnson, based on the Swedish group Abba's songs that were written by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. Performed outdoors on the back lawn of the Scandinavian Club, in Fairfield, CT, the venue fits the show perfectly! With the help of the strong skills of choreographer Kelsey Kaminski, executive producer Eli Newsom and artistic director Christy McIntosh-Newsom bring out the best in this outstanding cast of talented actors and actresses who have tremendous stage chemistry with each other. The cast members all shine forth with positive energy that radiates outwards through the audience, creating a positive vibe that enhances the audience's enjoyment of this production, seeing how much the performers are clearly enjoying their roles.

A talented live band led by musical director Jackie Martino, who also plays keyboards, provides moving accompaniment. Clay Zambo is also on keyboards, with Charles Casimiro on bass and Gabe Nappi on drums. The band's highlight is a face-melting guitar solo, at the end of S.O.S., performed by lead guitarist Michael Mosca.

The ensemble members enhance this production tremendously with their dancing and backing vocals. They all appear to tremendously enjoy contributing their talents to this show. Ensemble members include Jennifer Faccenda, Bonnie Gregson, James Hisey, Marnie Kruse, John Layseca, Christine Mitchell-Robinson, Ainsley Novin, Sophie Pennock Collins, Lindsey Reuter, Ryan Romero, Emily Seanor, Genevieve Seanor, and Nora Watson. It is clear that, among these ensemble members, Fairfield Center Stage has a large first-rate talent pool to choose from for future productions that require young leads.

Marylin Olsen and Jessica Pescosolido play the mother and daughter leads, Donna and Sophie, respectively. The premise of the story is that Sophie is planning her wedding, and wants to invite her father, who she has never met. She discovers, from her mother's diary, that there are three potential suspects. So, she invites all three men, under a false assumption that she would instantly know who her real father is, when she meets him.

The three father suspects named Sam, Harry, and Bill are performed by Mark Silence, Bill Warncke, and Jeff Fulton, respectively. One of the great things about these characters and the way the story is written is that there is no tone suggesting a clear favorite to the audience, neither in terms of a father for Sophie, nor a potentially rekindled romantic interest for Donna. The central protagonist roles, rather, are clearly those of Donna and Sophie, with the audience rooting for the truth in terms of Sophie's father, and each audience member's own personal preference for who (if any) they want to see Donna end up with.

Monique Castillo and Marcelle Morrisey are entertaining as Sophie's friends Ali and Lisa, respectively. Their interactions with Jessica Pescosolido and with each other genuinely come across as authentic friendship, as they all totally sell every line, action, and interaction.

Carolyn Reeves and Shannon Grumet likewise gel flawlessly with Marylin Olsen as Donna's friends Tanya and Rosie, respectively. The dynamics between these three characters mirror those between Sophie and her friends, showing that the connection between the mother and daughter extends to their interactions with their friends.

Sky, who is Sophie's fiancé, is brought to life by Sean Davis who brings an authenticity to the tone and cadence of his lines.

Other standout roles include Erick Sanchez Gomez and Bobby Henry as Eddie, and Pepper, respectively, both employees of Donna. The best comedic moments involve them, the comedic highlight being their initial interaction with each other, brilliantly performed.

My favorite musical number in this production is the ensemble number "Gimme Gimme Gimme." The band provides the moving melody while Sophie, Ali, Lisa, and the ensemble girls sing and dance. The tone fits just right as the number is smoothly interjected three times with dialogue involving Sophie, and individually with each of the three father suspects, the moment where each of them suddenly get the revelation of being Sophie's father.

For mature audiences, I highly recommend MAMMA MIA! Fairfield Center Stage plans to continue to run this show through October 24, 2021. For times and tickets, please go to Tickets.

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