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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Mamma Mia! Returns to San Francisco

Also see Richard's reviews of Candide and Times Like These

The ABBA musical Mamma Mia! is enjoying a return visit to San Francisco where it is currently playing at the Golden Gate Theatre. This is a special engagement in association with 2003-2004 Best of Broadway season. There are more productions of this high energy musical playing around the world than any other musical - a total of 11 productions, including eight resident productions and three tours are generating over $7.5 million a week in ticket sales. Six more productions are planned over the next 18 months with four set to open this year. Over 10 million people have seen this show worldwide.

Mamma Mia!'s first United States opening was in November 2000 here in San Francisco before entrancing audiences on Broadway. Louise Pitre was declared a star for her role as Donna. The national tour with Dee Hoty came to our city in 2002 and once again this musical captivated the audience. [Both of these reviews are in our San Francisco regional index .] I also saw the zesty Las Vegas production with Tina Walsh.

ABBA' s score still has that great beat. This is an audience-friendly musical and everyone at the Golden Gate is having a rip-roaring time listing to "Dancing Queen", "Money, Money, Money" and "The Winner Takes It All." My favorite song is still the theme song of the popular BBC show with the character Alan Partridge, "Knowing Me, Knowing You." Yep, I am an ABBA fan and I could not keep my feet and body from not moving to the songs. The boys are beautiful and they look like they live on a Greek Island. The girls dance their tuchis' off and choral work is great. The orchestra has been amplified and it shakes the rafters of the Golden Gate Theatre.

Mamma Mia!Jeanine Morick (pictured at right) makes a good Donna Sheridan. However, she does not have the zest of Louise Pitre, Tina Walsh or Dee Hoty. Ms. Morick, who recently played the role of Tanya in the musical at the Winter Garden, has not fully developed into the role, but she does an excellent rendition of "The Winner Takes It All." She has powerful vocal chops towards the end of the song. The orchestra does drown out her voice in several songs.

Chilina Kennedy is wonderful as Donna's daughter Sophie. She has a very sweet voice and makes a good appearance on the large stage. Sophie's finance is played by P.J. Griffith, a great hunk with a great voice. Gary Lynch is still playing the role of Sam Carmichael and his powerful voice still shines in "Knowing Me, Knowing You." The other "fathers," Joe Paparella and Craig Bennett, are good in their roles.

Cynthia Sophiea and Rosalyn Rahn Kerins are both great as the comedy relief and friends of the Donna. Sophiea is perfect as the tall and lanky Tanya, and her delivery on the one-line zingers is right on the mark. Kerins as Rosie tends to ham it up a bit, and she reminds me of Marcia Lewis playing Mama Morton in Chicago. Phillip Nero is an amazing dancer, playing the comic role of Pepper. He is small in stature but he makes up for it with his incredible moves in the second act.

The same simple set that has been used in prior productions is still used to good effect. The last scene with a huge moon and ramp works well. The cast still comes back out to do the disco beat of "Dancing Queen." Everyone gets up from their seats and shakes all parts of their bodies to the beat. As Sam Rubin of KTLA, Los Angeles, says: "It still rocks."

Mamma Mia! will play at the Golden Gate Theatre, Golden Gate Ave at Taylor, San Francisco through April 17th. For tickets, call Ticketmaster Charge by Phone 415-512-7770. Tickets also available at the Golden Gate and Orpheum Theatre box offices and all all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers.

The next production into the Golden Gate will be Hairspray, running April 28 through July 3. The Lion King is currently playing at the Orpheum Theatre.


Photo: Joan Marcus


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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