Review by Danny Gaisin
First saw the Benny Andersson/Bjorn Ulvaeus (ABBA) silliness ages ago when everybody trooped to Mirvish’s King Street theatre to hear, sing & dance to the mega hit. Thought the movie version (Streep/Brosnan etc.) was a disaster. Last night I again felt the excitement experienced in Toronto during the last century!. It’s toe-tapping; titillating; hummable and certainly encourages muted singing along. Well staged; superbly sung & acted and meticulously directed. Ancaster may be a community theatre, but its efforts are highly professional productions. Their 2018 “CHICAGO” made our O.A.R. Top Ten List and MAMMA MIA is a definite contender for 2019.
The fluffy plot is probably familiar to everyone except those non-poppy wearers that Cherry ranted about, So a brief iteration. A young lady living on a Greek Island with her mother is engaged. Doesn’t know who her father was but access to Mom’s old diary suggests one of three old suitors. She invites all three to the wedding without telling mater. Add Mom’s two long-ago partners as a disco trio and then incorporate the always-Gold-record songs of ABBA. Surefire hit.
Young Sophie Sheridan is amply played and sung by Danielle Desjardins, and she’s comfortable in all three demanding musical theatre genres. There’s a cute contemporary hint in that she ofttimes adds that ‘Valley Girl’ ‘a‘ at the end of certain words. Erin Bree Pierce portrays her mother. Pierce is somewhat weak in her parental role but is a treat when she’s dancing with Kate Rogers & Emily Bolyea recreating their ‘Dynamos’ disco dancing Queens. Rendering ‘Super Trouper’ properly attired in spangles and high-heeled boots; this number is a definitive join-in-the-chorus requisite. Bolyea is a treat especially when she’s trying to land one of the three potential Daddy’s. But its Rogers who is a standout. This lady owns the show and she possesses that rare talent that exudes a certain something that’s colloquially called charisma. Her interaction with the two other ladies is only outdone during the sexy duet with Riley Macnab whose ‘Pepper’ epitomizes the over testosterone-ic teenager. Their ‘Does Your Mother Know’ number is superlative and worth the admission cost alone!
The paternal potentiates are played by Michael Churm; Jim Broadley & E. Jan Chithalen. All three possess strong tenor voices and display innate acting abilities, but the latter seems first among equals. His demeanor, good looks and singing manner are noticeable.
Directing such a large cast and wrangling the ensemble who are the counterpuntal backup voices while the leads are stage front is a major challenge. Every detail is faultless and Nupi Gokhale has been meticulous and precise, thus assuring that the play progresses smoothly and without seams. She allows her leads to imbue certain personal quirks into the role portrayals and thus adds credibility to the stage characterizations. Her incorporation of the numerous chorus numbers designed by Tina Rath flow naturally and are perfectly synchronized reflecting tons of rehearsals.
Mamma Mia is the reverse procedure of musical comedy creation. As opposed to a plot being musicalized, this is a case of taking marvelous music & lyrics, then creating a plot n which to display same. Alas, the second act’s pace slows somewhat but audiences shouldn’t leave at intermission or they’ll miss the Tanya & Pepper number mentioned above. It was director Gokhale’s desire that her audience let ”the silliness take over and leave here tonight bopping to the music and grinning ear-to-ear”. Miss Gokhale – we DID, and “ ♫ Thank you for the Music ♪”
MAMMA MIA will be at Theatre Ancaster until Nov. 30th.