Attention dancing queens! Timeless tunes by 1970s pop legends ABBA and a terrifically entertaining cast fuel the joy of “Mamma Mia!”
The production continues through Saturday, Oct. 28, at La Comedia Dinner Theatre in Springboro.
A global smash nominated for five 2002 Tony Awards including Best Musical, “Mamma Mia!” tells a tale of romance, resilience, misunderstanding, forgiveness, and hope set on a small Greek island. Before the lovely Sophie Sheridan marries her devoted boyfriend Sky, she decides it’s time to discover the identity of her father. With great expectation, she invites three men connected to her mother Donna’s past back to the island they had last visited 20 years earlier.
Here are five reasons why you should see this upbeat show, starring an excellent Becky Barrett-Jones as Donna, in its first appearance on the La Comedia stage.
SONGS DRIVE THE STORY
Over 20 ABBA hits written by Benny Anderson and Björn Ulvaeus are featured from “Take a Chance on Me” and “S.O.S.” to “Money, Money, Money” and the title number. Interestingly, unlike most jukebox musicals, the songs clearly drive the plot without feeling shoehorned or completely out of place. In fact, the sheer drama of “The Winner Takes It All” – powerfully rendered by Barrett-Jones as Donna finally sets things straight with bygone suitor Sam Carmichael (Chris Kramer) – reiterates the strengths of Anderson and Ulvaeus as genuine storytellers. “You could almost take the dialogue out of this show because the songs are so strong,” said director/choreographer Chris Beiser. “It’s almost as if (Anderson and Ulvaeus) wrote these songs with a musical in mind.”
JOY AND TEARS
“Mamma Mia!” warmly depicts female empowerment and the bonds of sisterhood. Donna and Sophie have a few spats, as any mother and daughter would, but at the end of the day, they know they can count on each other. “Super Trouper” is an especially fun reminder of Donna’s musical glory days opposite Rosie (playful comedienne Britte Steele) and Tanya (reliably versatile Karie-Lee Sutherland). “Slipping Through My Fingers,” sung with beautiful wistfulness by Barrett-Jones, is a tenderly tearful highlight as Donna contemplates the passage of time. “I have a group of girlfriends I call my Ya-Ya’s, but the group started because a friend of mine’s mother had a group of Ya-Ya girlfriends and now her daughter does as well,” said Barrett-Jones. “I’m thankful for the dear women I have in my life. Plus, the scene between Sophie and Donna as Sophie prepares to leave home is a moment many moms can relate to. I think this show resonates because of its relationships and the music.”
A BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE
In her La Comedia debut, the absolutely radiant Erica Lynn Bridge, a recent graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, is a triple threat knockout as the determined, inquisitive Sophie. Filling every song with pop-driven finesse as if recording her debut CD, she specifically gives “The Name of the Game” wonderfully meaningful and stinging urgency as Sophie searches for answers from Donna’s former flame Bill Austin (Patrick Philip Becker). See Bridge now before Broadway or Hollywood catapults her promising career.
In case you didn’t know, chemistry cannot be faked. Actors either have it or they don’t. And believe me, Bridge and the handsomely talented Ben-David Carlson (Sky) are a match made in heaven. Their fantastic rendition of “Lay All Your Love On Me,” a seductive, pulse-racing duet, brings the heat while indicating skin is in.
Some shows simply come along at the right time for an audience in dire need of nostalgic escapism. Audiences are encouraged to leave their troubles outside and ultimately dance in the aisles. “‘Mamma Mia!’ takes place on a beach so treat this show as a vacation,” Beiser said. “The way we present the show, including the sets and costumes, is very light like a breeze and so enjoyable.”