Theater Review: ‘Mamma Mia!’ lights up Theatre Three
By Barbara Anne Kirshner
You are cordially invited
To the destination wedding
Of Sophie and Sky
At a Greek Island inn.
BUT before Sophie can walk down the aisle, there is a mystery that must be solved.
Theatre Three has done it again and in grand style with the lighthearted musical comedy, Mamma Mia! The Musical featuring the songs of Swedish pop sensation, ABBA.
The band, under the direction of accomplished Jeffrey Hoffman, starts the joyful festivities with an overture of ABBA catchy hits. Even if you weren’t alive when this 70’s rock group was big, the songs are infectious and sure to delight all age groups.
Producer Judy Craymer is credited with introducing the idea for this show to ABBA Swedish songwriters and members of the original band, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, in 1983. British playwright Catherine Johnson was brought onboard to weave a story around these much-loved hit tunes and Mamma Mia! was born.
The show was an international sensation including productions at London’s West End and Broadway. It holds the distinction of being the eighth longest-running musical in West End history and 18th longest running musical on Broadway where it opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on October 18, 2001, and ran through September 12, 2015.
The story revolves around Sophie who discovers her mother Donna’s old diary only to find entries describing that twenty-one years ago she was intimate with three men, — Sam Carmichael, Bill Austin and Harry Bright — at this island paradise that she now owns. One of these three men is Sophie’s father, but which?
Sophie, who is about to get married, has visions of her father walking her down the aisle, so she sends invitations addressing them from her mother, but not letting Donna know what she has done. She feels certain that the moment she sets eyes on the men, she will know her father. The men accept and the plot is filled with comedic and emotional twists and turns when they show up at Donna’s Greek Island inn.
Director Jeffrey Sanzel has done a masterful job casting this show and the results are sheer perfection.
Cassidy Rose O’Brien’s Sophie is adorable with a rich vibrato that wraps around songs like I Have a Dream. O’Brien and Eric J. Hughes, as her fiancé Sky, have great chemistry. One cute bit has Sky and his pals maneuvering scuba flippers as they team up with O’Brien on Lay All Your Love on Me showing how silly, playful and sexy these two are together.
Steve Corbellini as Donna’s special love Sam delivers a heartfelt performance that crescendos in his duet with Christina Muens (Donna) on S.O.S. Dennis Setteducati is hysterical as the never married adventurer and writer, Bill. His duet with Rosie on Take a Chance on Me is a madcap whirlwind as choreographed by Sari Feldman who can always be counted on to tell stories through dance. Andrew Boza’s Harry is reminiscent of a Monty Python character with his humorous British affects.
To add a fine dose of humor to the plot, Donna has invited her best friends with whom she was once in a girl group called Donna and the Dynamos. When these women arrive, the three have a grand reunion as they reminisce over former exploits.
There is the rich Tanya (Stephanie Moreau), who has been married three times, and the breezy Rosie (Lori Beth Belkin) who has never married. These three women are the centerpiece of the show adding much hilarity through their impeccable comedic timing and exuberant renditions of songs like Dancing Queen, Chiquita, and Super Trouper. Muens is fabulous as Donna with her powerhouse voice that sends chills especially in the standout The Winner Takes It All.
The cast is accompanied by a lively ensemble that infuses the stage with song and dance.
Costumes by Ronald Green III help illustrate the personalities of the characters from Bill’s Indiana Jones style hunting hat to Tanya’s elegantly flowing outfits to the flashy silver disco dresses of Donna and the Dynamos to all that glitter.
Randall Parsons’ scenic design cleverly glides from the main inn to a bedroom and back again while lighting design by Robert Henderson, Jr. accentuates the moods with well-placed neon columns illuminating assorted colors.
The finale is exhilarating with Donna, Tanya and Rosie joined by Sam, Bill and Harry appearing in colorful ABBA inspired costumes and accompanied by the entire company draped in sequins. They invite the audience to a dance party featuring the songs Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen and Waterloo.
For an effervescent evening of theatre, get swept into the world of ABBA music at Donna’s fun Greek island resort in Mamma Mia!, playing now through June 25 at Theatre Three, 412 Main Street in Port Jefferson. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 and up. Please note this show contains adult themes and situations. For more information or to order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com
I first saw Mamma Mia! in 2003 at Mandalay Bay Hotel when I was visiting my uncle who lived in Las Vegas. It was such a magical production brimming with energy and spirit that I couldn’t wait to take my niece and nephew to see the Broadway production, but to my surprise, I left the Winter Garden Theatre disappointed. I am happy to say that Theatre Three’s production has the spirit and energy that so enchanted me in Vegas. If you love musical theatre, you must catch this show. You will leave the theatre smiling, dancing to the beat and singing.