BWW Review: MAMMA MIA! at Lion Heart Productions, Will Have You Saying Thank You For The Music!
Mamma Mia! is playing Friday, November 8th through Saturday, November 16th at the Grant Public Schools Fine Arts Center. Making its Grant stage debut as Lion Heart Productions 2019-2020 season musical, it is filled with hit after musical hit from the popular Swedish pop group ABBA such as "Dancing Queen," "Take a Chance on Me," "Lay All Your Love on Me," and many more catchy songs. It's a unique take on the hit songs, with great costumes, and scenery as well.
Mama Mia! is the story that unfolds at a Taverna on a Greek island paradise, where Sofie Sheriden (Meghan McKnight) is preparing for her wedding day to Sky (Jarod Howell), but one thing seems to be missing, she would like her father to walk her down the isle. She goes looking through her mother Donna's (Mandy Casebolt) diary, and finds out it could be any one of three men. It could be Bill Austin (Nick Koogler), Sam Carmichael (David Hatter), or Harry Bright (Jamie Evans), so she decides to write all three, inviting them to her wedding hoping they will show up. All three show up to the island, unknown to Donna who hasn't spoke to any of them in years. Along with her ex's (who don't know they might have a daughter), attending the wedding are her former girl band members from Donna & The Dynamos, Rosie (Cammie Hollinger), and Tanya (Julia Scarlet Cole) who are single and may find some love of there own well on the island.
This is a show that is currently sweeping the theatre scene on the successful release of the movie Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again last year in 2018. With it's pop score, it is not your traditional show music, which for those used to singing show music could be a very interesting dynamic difference. I have seen a few different stage versions of the musical, and love to see what the various groups do with it. I was glad to see newcomers to the Lion Heart stage, including Mandy Casebolt (Donna) to bring that unique pop vocals to the stage, and the voices of her, Julia Scarlet Cole (Tanya), and Cammie Hollinger (Rosie) blended so well together. Meghan McKnight whose vocals were so very strong as Sophie will have many years ahead in theatre. Her Sky (Jarod Howell) has good vocals as well and there chemistry as a stage couple was right on point, as much as the disdain that it appeared her mom Donna had for the men. The pit was amazing considering for Lion Heart's show it is orchestrated with three keyboards, one guitar, one bass, and single percussion, instead of the full pit normally of a musical, giving it that stripped back almost acoustic feeling without loosing any of the music. The vocals being blended from backstage, instead of on it like I have seen in other versions of the show, provided a unique interpretation as well, and allowed the vocals of the person on stage to shine! One character that was interpreted a bit different then I've seen was Pepper, as the comedic timing of Graydon Gesler had me laughing at his various antics, and his almost constant flirting and hitting on Tanya was so funny. Lion Heart not only nailed the pop score, but the comedy, and heartfelt parts of the show as well.
I can't forget the awesome creative team that Lion Heart always puts together. They are a group I always look forward to because of there artistic take on set designs done once again by Mike Gesler, costuming headed by Kathy Jenkins, and vocals with it being a different style of music headed by Bob Alonzo. This all couldn't come to life without the director Dana McKnight, as well as stage manager Val Sweers. This is what makes it community theatre. Some of these people have been with Lion Heart since the beginning and I always look forward to how that experience is brought to each production. I would strongly recommend going to the Grant Public Schools Fine Arts Center to see Lion Heart Productions Mamma Mia! as you will not be disappointed.
Mamma Mia! is currently running until November 16th at the Grant Public Schools Fine Arts Center. Shows are November 8th at 7:30pm, November 9th at 7:30pm, and November 10th at 2pm. Then the following weekend November 15th at 7:30 PM and November 16th at 2PM and 7:30 PM. For more information and tickets, visit tickets.vendini.com
Connect with Lion Heart Productions for complete info on Mamma Mia!, as well as info for the Spring show Clue on Facebook LionHeartProductions, on twitter at @LionHeartProd7, on instagram at @lionheart_productions, and online www.lionheartproductions.org.