by Terrance Mc Arthur
This has become my year of changing opinions. I always hated the song “Tomorrow” from Annie because I associated it with small children singing loudly off-key…until I saw the Good Company Players’ production, and now I love it. Now, I have to admit something I never expected to say…Mamma Mia! is a great show!
A solid storyline that made sense (even if it was reminiscent of the Sophia Loren film Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell), terrific performers, and beautiful Greek scenery. What a combination!
The basic story: Sophia (Caitlin Lopez) is getting married to Sky (Steven San Sebastian) at the Greek taverna of her mother, Donna (Emily Pessano). Donna’s old friends (Paige Parker, Kay Wilkins) from their Donna & the Dynamos singing days in the 70s are invited. Having found Donna’s old diary, Sophie invites the three men (Bill Johnson, Nicholas Nunez, Teddy Maldonado) who might be her father. Sophie wants to know who her father is, Donna doesn’t want old memories unearthed, and the men have no clue at first.
Lopez is incandescent, as usual, with a thrilling voice illuminating “Honey Honey” and “Under Attack.” Pert and lively, she seems to move at high speed, even when standing still.
Pessano graduates to grown-up status, playing a mother and infusing songs with authority and fun. “The Winner Takes It All” steals every heart, “Money, Money, Money” has a richness to it, and “Dancing Queen” builds to a frenzy with Parker and Wilkins strutting with her every beat of the way. Parker gets playfully cougarish with Alex Figueroa on “Does Your Mother Know,” turning from the pursued to the stalker—but with a smile. Wilkins gets her moment to shine on “Take a Chance on Me” with Nunez.
Maldonado plays more of a grown-up than he did as the father in A Christmas Story, reeling in the shtick to provide a tender, mature individual, while powering up to put “Knowing Me, Knowing You” into the bleacher seats. Johnson is big but benign, and blends nicely with Pessano on “Our Last Summer.” Nunez makes his journalist character world-wise, but not world-weary.
London Garcia and Aubree Facio are chipper as Sophie’s BFFs, and Figueroa and Marcus Cardenas provide support as the taverna staff. Steven San Sebastian towers over Lopez, and gets the thankless task of being the fiancée not understanding his love’s purpose for having the wedding.
In many shows, there are unsung heroes needed to make the show work. In Mamma Mia!, the ‘sung’ heroes are the chorus members behind the set, singing their lungs out to create those multi-layered rhythms and harmonies we expect from the songs of Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus (and a few with Stig Anderson). Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed and staff must have worked overtime on all those amazing costumes, especially the Labelle-esque Spandex suits for the Dynamos. David Pierce’s Greek buildings served as great complements to the projected images from Broadway Media Distribution.
Judith Dickison’s vocal coaching pulled all the threads of sound into a shimmering tapestry. Kaye Migaki’s choreography incorporated the essence of Greek folk dancing into movement. And then…there was Dan Pessano, director extraordinaire, who has the wisdom to know when his actors should stay in one place.
One treat of the show is kept until after it ends, as the music and dancing spills out into the audience. Let the music take you away!
The Junior Company pre-show is a tribute to the jukebox musicals that combine songs of an era or music of cherished performers, groups, or songwriters. Peter Hartley and Hunter Oehlschlaeger get some impressive moments in the spotlight.
Mamma Mia! plays through May 20 at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theatre, 1226 N. Wishon at Olive Ave. For more information, call (559) 266-9494 or go to gcplayers.com or KRL’s Good Company Players event page.
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