Review Roundup: MAMMA MIA! at Bucks County Playhouse; What Did The Critics Think?
Bucks County Playhouse continues its 80th Anniversary Season with an all-new production of the high-energy, international musical sensation, "Mamma Mia!"
Directed by Tony-nominated actor and Upper Dublin graduate John Tartaglia and choreographed by Broadway's Shannon Lewis, the musical began previews on June 28 with an official opening performance on Sunday, June 30 at 5:00 pm and performs through August 3. The 2019 Bucks County Playhouse Season is sponsored by Bank of America
Michelle Dawson (Broadway's "Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark," "Mamma Mia!," "Ragtime") is Donna. Also starring is Sara Masterson ("Next to Normal" at Syracuse Stage) as Sophie, Devin Lewis ("Newsies: Live!") as Sky, Terra C. MacLeod (Broadway's "Chicago") as Tanya, Danielle Lee Greaves (Broadway's "A Streetcar Named Desire," "Rent", "Hairspray") as Rosie, Michael Hunsaker (National Tour, "Ragtime") as Sam, Peter Saide (Las Vegas' "Jersey Boys," "Desperate Measures" Off-Broadway) as Bill, Michael Dean Morgan (Bucks County Playhouse's "National Pastime" and Broadway's "Amazing Grace") as Harry.
Let's see what the critics have to say!
John Timpane, The Philadelphia Inquirer: Lewis and Tartaglia take advantage of all opportunities for characterization, humor, plot advancement. During "Dancing Queen," when Dawson sings "only 17," she clasps her breasts, nostalgic for their teen shape. "Chiquitita," a potentially terrible song, is saved by Rosie and Tanya, who throw Donna around like a rag doll as they try to perk her up. With summery energy, this production smooths over inevitable jukebox-musical seams, making the songs fit the moment. A good example is "Knowing Me Knowing You," in which Sam (strong-voiced Michael Hunsaker) tries to teach Sophie (his might-be daughter) that even true love may crash. It's summer, so it must be Mamma Mia! I don't see how you could do it better than Bucks County is doing it. You will emerge chuckling, humming, enjoying the warmth.
Anne Marie Scalies, BroadwayWorld: Michelle Dawson's portrayal of Donna came off a bit jaded and mostly angry, especially during her interactions with Sam. She also lacked onstage chemistry with Masterson in the mother/daughter scenes. Although vocally wonderful, her musicality dragged between phrases often not keeping time with the orchestra. Bringing joyous comic relief were "The Dynamos" Tanya and Rosie, Terra C. MacLeod and Danielle Lee Greaves respectively. Both actors have scene stealing moments, particularly during solo musical numbers. I thoroughly enjoyed how human and playful MacLeod's Tanya was instead of snooty and uptight as portrayed on screen. Greaves and Saide's "Take a Chance of Me" was a showstopper! Saide's moves are reminiscent of Joe Manganiello in "Magic Mike" with the bonus of an Australian accent.
Paul Willstein, Northampton Press: Tartaglia strikes the right tone with the strong ensemble of Ryan Ballard, Taylor Broadard, Ian Campayno, Sy Chounchaisit, Alec Cohen, Jillian Hope Ferguson, Julia Joy, Kathleen Laituri, Francesca Mancuso, McKenzie Sherman, Greg Sim, Caden Thomas and Julius Williams. The dancers are exceptionally athletic. During one number, the men, in swim trunks and yellow flippers, strut across the stage in a scene reminscent of Warner Bros. "Merrie Melodies" cartoon character Michigan J. Frog, who sang "Hello My Baby" in "One Froggy Evening" (1955). Tartaglia doesn't take the plot, the characters or the songs too seriously. He's having fun with the show, and so will you. At the same time, Dawson evokes empathy as Donna with vulnerabiity offset by powerful vocals, especially in the second act, which she owns, with the numbers, "One of Us," a solo spotlight; "SOS," with Sam (Michael Hunsaker, in powerful voice throughout); "Our Last Summer," with Harry (Michael Dean Morgan, so silly in full-nerd mode); "Slipping Through My Fingers," with Masterson, and the penultimate, "The Winner Takes It All," a chill-bumps solo.
Neal Zoren, Princeton Info: Amid all the merriment, director John Tartaglia and cast infuse serious sequences with dramatic honesty that give this "Mamma Mia!" depth that is usually overlooked. Not only does the production slow down to let the musical's story come through, it features a stirring moment when Donna (Michelle Dawson) lets loose decades of repressed feelings in "The Winner Takes It All." Tartaglia's is a wonderful "Mamma Mia!," supported mightily by Shannon Lewis's loopily inventive choreography, Anna Louizos's versatile set, and Gina Scherr's lighting design that works marvels with shadows and brightly illuminating one section of the stage while making another appear as if it's in black-and-white.