Mamma Mia! Shines and Sparkles at the WBT
Westchester Broadway Theatre’s 200th production, Mamma Mia! celebrates love, family and friendship! Through the magic of ABBA’s songs, Mamma Mia! tells the story of Donna Sheridan, an independent, single mother who is about to give away Sophie, the spirited daughter she’s raised alone on an idyllic Greek island. For Sophie’s wedding, Donna has invited her two best girlfriends to celebrate the occasion, but Sophie has secretly invited guests of her own – three men from Donna’s past … in the hopes that one of them will be the father she’s never known.
The show opens with Sophie, Mariah MacFarlane, sweetly singing I Have a Dream. The bright set of blues and vivid white by Steve Loftus along with the subtle and effective lighting design by Andrew Gmoser simulate a warm summer sky. Sophie’s fun-loving friends Ali and Lisa, played by Sydney Patrick and Cameron Anika Hill, respectively, add a peppy youthful energy. Their interplay is so similar to what we find when we meet Sophie’s mother, Donna and her friends.
Donna, expertly played by WBT veteran Michelle Dawson, is thoroughly engaging as her story unfolds with the help of her best girlfriends and backup singers from her former girl group. Elise Kinnon as Tanya, the wealthy, multi-divorcee, possessed impeccable comic timing as she plays the sexy siren. Her rendition of Does Your Mother Know was fun and flirtatious. Rosie,the witty, feministic author played by Jennifer Swiderski generated uproarious laughter, especially during Take a Change on Me. We are treated to many songs with Donna and her Dynamos. Separately, their voices were beautiful but together their harmonies and chemistry were exhilarating, especially in Chiquitita, they blended perfectly.
Three is a magic number and recurring theme as we meet Donna’s former lovers. Xander Chauncey as Sam Carmichael, the New York City architect; Brent Bateman as the devoutly single writer and adventurer Bill Austin, and Kilty Reidy is the wealthy British financier Harry Bright. Each of these gentlemen were so engaging, it isn't hard to see why Donna fell for each one of them. The trio of younger gentlemen include Nathan Cockroft as Sophie’s fiancé Sky with his goofball buddies, Pepper and Eddie, played by Connor Wince and Matty Rickard. Connor Wince's acrobatic dance moves were remarkable. At one point he flipped so high, he appeared to stop mid-air then land with ease. The ensemble of beefcake execute the enjoyable choreography with cheekiness and exuberance in Lay All Your Love On Me.
The ensemble is to be commended for adding to the passion and energy, even during their behind-the-scenes vocals. Although some musicals take liberties with “showtuning” popular songs, this is not done with Mamma Mia! The songs and their memorable harmonies and arrangements are identical to the original ABBA renditions. The ensemble included DeShawn Bowens, Brian Dillon,Brett-Marco Glauser, Alicia Hemann, Lily Lewis, Bailey Purvis, Tanner James Rampton, Charity VanTassel and Kyle White.
The costumes designed by Jeff Hendry and coordinated by Matthew Hemesath brought back memories of the 70’s, transported us to Greece and well suited (pun intended) the vibrant characters. The wedding scene’s varying shades of pinks created warm pops of color against the blue and white set. But nothing topped the finale outfits that glittered, sparkled and shined. The whole cast performs the last three songs in the encore/finale which was the icing on top of the wedding cake! Some audience members joined the fun by dancing and singing along as the mirror ball twirled with them.
Director & Choreographer, Mark Martino, created beautiful pictures, engaging staging and a seamless flow from dialogue to musical number. The live band led by Musical Director, Eric Alford, kept us grooving along with the familiar ABBA tunes.
The rest of production team include the Assistant Musical Director, Ryan Wise; Associate Director/Choreographer, Elise Kinnon; Sound Designer, Mark Zuckerman; Wig & hair designer Gerard Kelly; Production Stage Manager, Victor Lukas, Lisa Tiso, Associate Producer and properties by Grumpy Props.
Between the touching scenes that will warm your heart, the playful banter, stunning vocals and enthusiastic choreography, this “feel-good” musical will bring a spring to your step and a smile to your face. Celebrate spring and start your summer off right! Mamma Mia! plays through June 25, 2017, at Westchester Broadway Theatre – One Broadway Plaza, in Elmsford NY. For tickets, call the box office at (914) 592-2222, or purchase them online.