Review: MAMMA MIA at Candlelight Music Theatre

Candlelight Music Theatre brings

By: Feb. 01, 2022

Review: MAMMA MIA at Candlelight Music Theatre

Mamma Mia must be one of the greatest juke box musicals of all time. When the film came out, a colleague mentioned that Pierce Brosnan had an atrocious voice, so I passed. He had star power. That is how two of the most horrendous miscastings of movie musicals were cast; Marlon Brando in Guys and Dolls and even worse, Russell Crowe in Les Mis.

Candlelight continues to amaze. Coincidentally, Aisle Say saw the show at Media Theatre a month before Candlelight's opening on January 22. The majority of those actors were Equity, earning union dollars. These actors in Ardentown do it for love, certainly not for the stipends they receive. Their collective heart and their passion is palpable. Every one exuded confidence and joy. It was just fun watching them have fun!

The audience can feel authenticity. Not one of them dialed this show in.

To a great extent this is due to the culture that Producing Artistic Director Bob Kelly and the creative excellence of Director/Choreographer Dann Dunn. I know it sounds trite, but it really is a family.

Aisle Say keeps thinking that Dunn's choreo cannot get better. Yet, with each show, well, it does. Unbelievable. Aisle Say appreciated that it seemed "real," as in the party scenes, with each person doing his/her own thing. "Money, Money" was so very tightly chorographed. The angular turns reminded me of Fosse, whose dance Dunn knows quite well.

Lighting Designer Matthew Kator created illusionary scenes with his shadings (see photo). Anyway, the lighting to me is always important in a play. It sets the tone and the whole mood of what unfolds on stage. I don't think most people are aware how it affects their reactions to what they are seeing. This set had a warm glow about it, much like one would imagine sunny Greece to be, rather than infusing the set with a bright, harsh white light to suggest daylight

Dunn did a wunderbar job in casting. Great portrayals and chemistry with all the leads.

Kaylan Wetzel is a true triple threat and did a wonderful job in the lead. She sang with a great deal of emotion where it was needed, as when she sang musingly about her daughter while brushing the girl's hair in preparation for the wedding. It was just the way a mother would reminisce, knowing her little girl had grown up. Wetzel had the majority of the songs and with each one she grew more powerful.

It was great seeing Lindsay Mauck in a starring role. Her gleeful persona knew no boundaries. The duet with Chris Fitting was hysterical and comically staged.

Much thought and preparation went into the costuming. I always see metaphors in the use of costumes, especially color and design. When the trio sang to the bridal shower, they were all in white. Wedding white. A foreshadow of what was to happen in their own lives? White is also a traditional wedding color for a bride (the daughter), yet the MOTHER was wearing white. The fact that the trio was all in white also made me think of the bonding of the three women, even though they hadn't been together for many years. White is also a non-color, so the audience couldn't focus on one character over the other at that point, they were essentially on equal footing. Anything was apt to happen to any one of the three. It was important that the closing costumes were so flamboyant and over-the-top. The colors reflected the personalities of the three women. Notice how the men's costumes were also in synch at the end, like pairings of the characters. It didn't matter than one man came out as gay. They were all reflecting their true selves.

And, speaking of gay, when it was discovered that one of the possible fathers, Malik Muhammed, was gay, it was a great scene and there was nothing else to do but laugh with him. We all connected with the surprise.

Aisle Say's only problem is not rushing to the thesaurus for more superlatives. Jarod Calhoun's "Knowing You, Knowing Me" was particularly strong. "Our Last Summer", with Wetzel and Muhammed was touching and evocative.

My dear sister stated it was the most exciting "pre-Broadway production she had witnessed there...and she's seen the vast majority in the past decade. I can speak for our table. We had a problem with staying in our seats and not rushing up to dance with the ensemble.

From January 22 - February 27.

Next up: Big Fish

Tremendous photos by Tisa Delle-Volpe

Candlelight Theater Delaware (


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From This Author - Greer Firestone

Greer Firestone has been reviewing professional theatre for 35 years. As a playwright he wrote and produced JUDY GARLAND "World's Greatest Entertainer" at the Grand Opera House in Wilmin... Greer Firestone">(read more about this author)


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