BWW Review: The MUNY's Marvelous MAMMA MIA!
I've seen MAMMA MIA! many times, and I've always enjoyed the way it utilizes so many of ABBA's marvelously catchy, and so obviously theatrical in nature, tunes to tell its simple story. With the band cranking out a righteous sound, and back up singers filling the night air with harmony, The MUNY reminds you of why its just so unique and amazing. It has the ability to make a show seem larger than life. That's exactly what happens here in spectacular fashion. Go see it and enjoy this perfect show for a summer's evening under the stars!
Catherine Johnson's plot might be wafer thin, and borrowed here and there from other sources, but it is filled with tons of good humor. It concerns Sophie Sheridan's desire to have her father attend her upcoming nuptials in Greece. The problem is that Donna, her mother, had a fling with three different men some 20 years ago, and doesn't know which of them is the culprit. So, Sophie invites them all, with the hope that the truth will be revealed, and she'll be given away properly on her wedding day. The complication here is that Sophie gleans this bit of knowledge from her mother's diary, and doesn't bother to let her know that her former lovers are going to show up at her doorstep at any moment.
Brittany Zeinstra makes a lovely and appealing Sophie. She has a clear and beautiful voice that fits the material like a glove. Her opening number during the prologue, "I Have A Dream" sets a sweet and inviting tone for the evening. She's aided in her deceit by her friends Ali and Lisa, winningly played by Sara Gallo and Raven Thomas. Their run through "Honey, Honey" as Sophie quotes from the purloined diary is especially amusing. Jason Gotay is a nice match as her fiancée Sky, and shines vocally when he invites Sophie to "Lay All Your Love On Me".
Julia Murney is Donna, the long-suffering single mother with a chip on her shoulder, who's about to have her world turned upside down. Donna runs a floundering, but afloat taverna on a Greek island. She's tried to forget her past, but it's all come back in one fell swoop. Murney delivers particularly strong versions of "The Winner Takes It All" during a bitter encounter with her former flame, and a moving "Slipping Through My Fingers", as she helps her daughter prepare before her wedding.
Jenny Powers and Ann Harada are a riot as Donna's friends and former bandmates, Rosie and Tanya. Harada contributes nicely with "Chiquitita", as she implores her friend to open up about her life and problems. Powers puts a sexy charge into "Does Your Mother Know", as she rebuffs the advances of the much younger barkeep, Pepper. Their group performances on "Super Trooper" is a highlight, complete with resplendently over the top costumes by Leon Dobkowski.
As potential father number one, Mike McGowan fares well as Aussie adventurer and writer, Bill Austin. His reaction to Tanya's advances as she asks him to "Take A Chance On Me" are priceless. Ben Nordstrom is also very good as father number two, the former "Head Banger" Harry Bright. Nordstrom's infectious enthusiasm brightens an already cheery show considerably. His work on "Our Last Summer" with Murney is especially affecting. And, his duet with Zeinstra on "Thank You For the Music" brought some poignancy to the performance. Father number three, Justin Guarini does a really solid job throughout as Sam Carmichael, the most likely suspect, and the only one Donna ever truly loved. His take on "Knowing Me, Knowing You" is especially effective.
Director Dan Knechtges does stellar work here, keeping up a bright pace that never lags, and makes the show infectious fun. Tim Mackabee's splendid scenic design delivers a full-sized taverna which can be rotated and lit in any number of ways to suggest a scene's locale. Jessica Hartman's imaginative choreography takes full advantage of the space The Muny stage provides. Michael Horsley's musical directions give the songs a huge sound when augmented by the luscious vocals the offstage ensemble adds. And there's just no way you can get that opening riff from the title track out of your head (no matter how hard you try). Nathan W. Scheuer's lighting scheme shifts effortlessly between scenes and moods, while Greg Emetaz provides video imagery and backdrops that enhance the overall experience.
If you want to have a really fun time with the family, then head down to The Muny and catch their wonderfully executed production of MAMMA MIA! It plays through July 28, 2016.