BWW Review: MAMMA MIA! at Mason Street Warehouse at The Saugatuck Center For The Arts--Here We Go Again for the Best Summer Fun
In a savvy marketing move and perfect way to kick off the summer theatre season, Mason Street Warehouse (MSW) at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts opened with the get-happy, ABBA-tribute musical Mamma Mia! now playing through July 15. Once you've enjoyed it live-and-in-person at Mason Street Warehouse you can head to the movie theatre on July 20 for the Mamma Mia! movie sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
Saugatuck Center for the Arts Artistic Director and Mamma Mia! Director and Choreographer Kurt Stamm has brought together a triple-threat cast of 21 including 11 Actors Equity Union members, many of whom have performed on Broadway, and seven returning MSW alumni. Leading the production are MSW newcomers Heather Patterson King and Becca Andrews who play mother/daughter in the tale that opens the eve before Sophie (Andrews) is to be married to Sky (Miles Jacoby). Sophie was raised by her single mother Donna (King) on a Greek Island where Donna singlehandedly owns and operates a small, homey resort/bed-and-breakfast with a bevy of chiseled, zero-fat beautiful helpers (Mamma Mia's ensemble of talented college-trained theatre majors and graduates) who also act as bridesmaids and groomsmen. Upon finding her mother's diary of her bohemian past, Sophie sends wedding invitations to her three potential fathers (well-played with warmth and levity by Tim Connell, Mark Epperson and T.J. Mannix) unbeknownst to Donna. Donna's besties (Gina Milo and Amanda Ryan Paige in all their glorious comedic nuances) are her needed support system with 25 of Abba's classic songs to guide you through the bachelor and bachelorette parties and wedding day.
The energy of MSW's production is electrifying and pure fun. Todd Engle designed a set that flawlessly takes you inside and outside the Greek resort, boat rental shack and "Donna's Lost Soles of the Aegean" bar and lets the audience feel as if they are a part of the beach party. As a Mamma Mia! groupie of sorts, who has seen the show umpteen times, including several touring productions at the Fisher Theatre in Detroit, this is perhaps the strongest cast-both vocally and dance-that I have seen. King is a stand-out and her voice and interpretation of Donna shows true depth and dimension. As mother/daughter, King and Andrews have a nice chemistry and relationship. Speaking of chemistry, Andrews and Jacoby are well-suited as bride and groom to-be, with Jacoby bringing comedy and a sweet flirtatiousness to the role that isn't so often seen.
Always a challenge to the buff, sculpted dancing groomsmen, but revered by audiences, is the flipper-tap number to "Lay All Your Love on Me." It is forever embedded and on repeat in my brain. Definitely a show-stopper from all angles. And, not to give too much a way, but "stay for the credits," as they say. Then dance away singing and smiling.
The only negative of this review goes to the playbill. Audiences receive the playbill for Mason Street Warehouse's entire season which includes Mamma Mia!, Dixie's Never Wear a Tube Top While Riding a Mechanical Bull (July 25- Aug. 5) and Once (Aug. 17-Sept. 2). While the playbill is beautifully produced, instead of grouping and listing the cast and crew within each production, the playbill lists everyone in alphabetical order for all three productions making it incredibly tedious and frustrating to figure out who's who. With that said, be sure to enjoy the beautiful sculpture garden before or after the show while deciphering the program.
Mamma Mia! runs almost daily through July 15. Tickets are on sale at www.sc4a.org, at the box office at 400 Culver Street in Saugatuck, or by phone at (269)857-2399.