BWW Review: Walnut's MAMMA MIA! 'The Winner Takes It All'

What is it about this musical that has captured so much attention? Is it the story?...Well, it is not exactly a compelling drama. Inspired by the storytelling magic of ABBA's songs from "Dancing Queen" and "S.O.S." to "Money, Money, Money" and "Take a Chance on Me," Mamma Mia! is a celebration of mothers and daughters, old friends and new family found. In all there are 22 ABBA songs all performed to near perfection by this talented cast.

But here's the plot...for those living on Mars who've never heard about this musical mish mosh of fun!

BWW Review: Walnut's MAMMA MIA! 'The Winner Takes It All'An independent, single mother who owns a small hotel on an idyllic Greek island, Donna is about to let go of Sophie, the spirited daughter she's raised alone. For Sophie's wedding, Donna has invited her two lifelong best girlfriends-practical and no-nonsense Rosie and wealthy, multi-divorcee Tanya - from her one-time backing band, Donna and the Dynamos. However, Sophie has secretly invited three guests of her own. On a quest to find the identity of her father to walk her down the aisle, she brings back three men from Donna's past to the Mediterranean paradise they visited 20 years earlier. Over 24 chaotic, magical hours, new love will bloom and old romances will be rekindled on this lush island full of possibilities.

Inspired by the storytelling magic of ABBA's songs from "Dancing Queen" and "S.O.S."BWW Review: Walnut's MAMMA MIA! 'The Winner Takes It All' to "Money, Money, Money" and "Take a Chance on Me," Mamma Mia! is a celebration of mothers and daughters, old friends and new family found. In all there are 22 ABBA songs all performed to near perfection by this talented cast.

MAMMA MIA!...Here's some facts:

This box office hit initially opened in London on April 6, 1999 and continues to play to sold-out houses to this day. The original production brought a renaissance to ABBA's music, reinstating the album ABBA Gold to the top of the music charts for the second time in 15 years.

It made its Broadway debut on November 17, 2000 and played for 15 years, becoming the 9th longest-running Broadway production. Since then, it has played to over 60 million people in more than 50 countries across 6 continents.

It is said that on any given day, there are at least seven performances of Mamma Mia! taking place around the world. It has been translated into 22 languages and has premiered in more cities faster than any musical in history.

Anne Brummel makes her Walnut debut as Donna Sheridan. She most recently BWW Review: Walnut's MAMMA MIA! 'The Winner Takes It All'performed as Elphaba on Broadway and the National Tour of Wicked. Her fellow "Dynamos," Tanya and Rosie, are played by Lyn Philistine and Charis Leos, respectively. Donna's 3 invited 'special guests' include Jonas Cohen (Harry Bright), Eric Kunze (Sam Carmichael), and Christopher Sutton (Bill Austin). Laura Giknis, who audiences will remember from Grease and Sister Act, plays Donna's daughter, Sophie, and Schuyler Conaway (South Pacific) plays Sky. Tara Tagliaferro (Annie) and Kathryn Miller (Annie) play Sophie's best friends, Ali and Lisa.

BWW Review: Walnut's MAMMA MIA! 'The Winner Takes It All'The principle cast is as Super Trouper as they come. Mother and daughter (Giknis and Brummel ) have great chemistry and are stand alone excellent in their roles. Donna's sidekicks from the past from definitely own those roles with Charis Leos (Rosie) stealing the scene with her "passion-crazed" encounter with Bill. All three "dad's" are uniquely wonderful especially Broadway's Eric Kunze's suave manners and excellent vocals that eventually ends up the "Winner Taking It All" or at least the girl.

Much of this blockbuster's success has to go to Richard Stafford who directs an energetic young company through a non-stop island party leaving no dock empty. Peter Barbieri's scenic designs freshly capture the all the ocean blue/ green essence without overpowering the action. The crowd anxiously awaits the much anticipated mega-mix finale, which is dedicated to www.rednoseday.org. bringing this roaring Opening Night crowd to its feet. What a great end of season beginning of summer show for the entire family!

MAMMA MIA! plays at the Walnut May 15 through July 15th. For tickets and information, call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787.Tickets are also available online 24/7 by visiting www.WalnutStreetTheatre.org

Photos: Mark Gavin

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