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Home | Maine State Music Theater Reviews | Mamma Mia! Is Infectiously Entertaining!

Mamma Mia! Is Infectiously Entertaining!

Mamma Mia! Is Infectiously Entertaining!

Maine State Music Theatre (MSMT) has produced another Broadway smash-hit at Pickard Theater in Brunswick and the opening night audience was singing and dancing along from start to finish. MAMMA MIA! which is based on the music of the 1970's Swedish pop/dance super group ABBA closes out the 2016 season and runs through August 27.

Review by Charles Crosby 

Photos by Ben McCanna
 

 

 

 

Maine State Music Theatre (MSMT) has produced another Broadway smash-hit at Pickard Theater in Brunswick and the opening night audience was singing and dancing along from start to finish. MAMMA MIA! which is based on the music of the 1970's Swedish pop/dance super group ABBA closes out the 2016 season and runs through August 27.

 

MAMMA MIA! is a jukebox musical written by British playwright Catherine Johnson, using the music and lyrics composed by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, former members of the band. The duo was involved with the development of the show from the beginning which first opened in the West End of London in 1999 before moving to Broadway for a 14 year run which ended last September (2015). The film adaptation featuring Meryl Streep, Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan was released in 2008.  MSMT is one of the first theaters to get the rights to this blockbuster which is a story set on a Greek island when, on the eve of her wedding, a daughter's quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother's past back to the island they last visited 20 years before. The story-telling magic of ABBA's timeless songs propels this enchanting tale of love, laughter, and friendship. MAMMA MIA! is a fun flashback in time for those who grew up listening and dancing to ABBA's music and anyone who loves a great comedic story about relationships. 

 

MAMMA MIA! is directed and choreographed by Mark Martino, making his MSMT debut, who says "thanks to Curt Dale Clark and Stephanie Dupal for inviting him to join this very special summer family of theatre artists. Regional Theatre is the lifeblood of dramatic arts in America...It's Curt and Stephanie's passionate committed leadership, combined with dedication, drive and talent of all involved here at Maine State Music Theatre...along with your continued audience support...that keeps this uniquely American art form alive and thriving!" Martino is based in New York City and his directing/choreography credits include numerous productions at Cape Playhouse (Dennis, MA), Florida's Maltz Jupiter Theatre, Boston's North Shore Music Theatre, Music Theatre of Louisville, The Cleveland Playhouse, Theatre Aspen, Steinbach Theatre (NYC) as well as for many North American symphony orchestras.  He also has film and television directing and choreography credits. Martino does a stellar job bringing this show to life on the Brunswick stage and the dancing and choreography is exceptional, especially the scene with the guys in flippers!  First time Music Director, Samuel Thorne Bagala (Keyboard 1), who first performed at MSMT at age of 16, conducted a compelling musical overture to open the show.  His orchestra did an excellent job and their balance with the onstage vocals was great. 

 

I must recognize the excellent casting of this show. This cast has some amazing Broadway talent, including veterans of the show as well as several new faces to the Brunswick audience. Native Mainer, Windham's own Chelsea Williams steps into the leading role of Sophie Sheridan. This talented actress played the role of Sophie on the first National Tour of MAMMA MIA!  Her singing and acting is flawless and she is a real hit with the audience. From the moment Lauren Mufson, who reprises her role of Sophie's mother Donna Sheridan, came on stage I could tell we were in for a special treat. Her voice is very powerful and duly noted in songs like "The Winner Takes It All." She played this role both on Broadway and the National Tour and she is perfect as Sophie's mother.  Critical to the casting are Sheridan's best friends Tanya (Jennifer Swirderski) and Rosie (Mylinda Hull) who fit the bill to a "T". Tanya, a rich woman who has been married and divorced three times, and Rosie, an unmarried, carefree woman round out the trio who were formerly known as the girl group "Donna and the Dynamos". This trio have the chemistry it takes to perform and sing the memorable hits "Chiquitita", "Money, Money, Money", "Dancing Queen", and "Super Trouper" in Act 1 which all takes place the day before Sophie's wedding. Swirdierski also played this role on Broadway and the National Tour. Hull last appeared at MSMT in Chicago in 2002, and has since starred in several Broadway productions including The Nance with Nathan Lane.  Also, in the first act we meet each of Sophie's possible fathers who she invited without to her wedding without her mother's knowledge: Harry Bright, aka "Head Banger" (played by Peter Simon Hilton) who last appeared at MSMT in My Fair Lady in 2010. He has also performed in National Tours of Oklahoma!, Les Miserables, and Frost/Nixon. Bill Austin (played by Aaron Galligan-Stierle) most recently appeared as Motel in MSMT's Fiddler on the Roof and Broadway's Phantom of the Opera, and Ragtime. The third possible father is played by Sam Carmichael (played by Ian Knauer), who has performed on Broadway in MAMMA MIA! as well Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Hilton is very funny in this role and his comedic timing, acting and singing are notable. Galligan-Stierle and Knauer are both great singers and actors as well and round out the cast nicely. Knauer (Sam) and Mufson (Donna) sing beautifully together and harmonize well especially in "S.O.S.". Cory Jeacoma, who is making his MSMT debut having most recently appeared in Footloose at the Fulton Theatre is well cast in this role and will be playing the part of Sky, Sophie's fiancé until August 14.  Stepping into the role of Sky from August 16 - 27 is Neil Starkenberg who performed in MAMMA MIA! on Broadway and on National Tour.  Sophie's friends are played by Emily Kelly who makes her MSMT debut (Ali) and Taylor Broadard a former performance intern in 2010 (Lisa).  They are fun to watch and the three play off each other well. Rounding out the cast are Neil Starkenberg (Pepper), PJ Palmer (Eddie), Mike Backes (Father Alexandrios), Phil Colgan, Giovannia DiGabriele, Alex Drost, Megan Flynn, Berkley Jones, Kyle Laing, Marty Lauter, Paul Louis Lessard, Heather Morgan, Haley Ostir, Lexi Rabadi, Matty Rickard (Dance Captain), Bethany Tesark, and Katie Whittemore.

 

I would be remiss if I did not mention the costume designer Jeff Hendry and his staff for their notable attention to detail.  The entire production staff played a huge part in bringing this opening night performance to life, seemingly without a hitch. 

 

As enjoyable as the first act was the show kept getting better and the second act was fast paced and exciting with the songs "S.O.S.", "Knowing Me, Knowing You?", "The Winner Takes It All", and "Take a Chance on Me" which Rosie sings to Bill as she attempts to convince him that they should get together which of course they do by song's end. The show ends with the ensemble singing "Voulez-Vous" and after the curtain call they come out for spectacular encore which includes the company signing "Mamma Mia" and Donna, Tanya, Rosie and Company singing "Dancing Queen" and "Waterloo". The three fathers also come out during the encore in disco era over-the-top outfits that nicely coordinated with the outfits of Donna and the Dynamos. The audience was on their feet, clapping and singing the entire time! This is a must see, however, there are not many tickets left in this nearly sold out show. Tickets are available online at www.msmt.org, over the phone by calling 207-725-8769, or in person by visiting the Box Office located at in the Pickard Theater at 1 Bath Road, Brunswick. 

 

Curt Dale Clark announced from stage on opening night that 2017 Season tickets are on sale now and the shows are: ALWAYS, PATSY CLINE, GUYS AND DOLLS, GREASE and the New England Regional Premiere of NEWSIES! Next summer can not come soon enough. 
 

 

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