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Southern Florida by John Lariviere


Mamma Mia!

Also see John's review of Beehive: The 60's Musical

Mamma MiaBroadway Across America - Ft. Lauderdale, in conjunction with Judy Craymer, Richard East and Björn Ulvaeus (for Littlestar in association with Universal) present the smash hit musical Mamma Mia! at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

The musical features the music and lyrics of ABBA, and was written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, with book by Catherine Johnson.  Although the title of the musical is taken from the group's 1975 chart-topper "Mamma Mia,"  the plot is fictional, not biographical.   The musical opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on October 18, 2001, where it is still playing.  It received two Drama Desk Awards and five Tony Award Nominations.  A popular movie version starring Meryl Streep was released in 2008 introducing a new generation to the music of ABBA, and sparking interest in the successful national tour of the musical.

The story of Mamma Mia! is about 20-year-old Sophie Sheridan, who lives with her mother Donna on the small Greek island of Kalokairi, where Donna runs a hotel called Villa Donna. Sophie is planning to marry her fiancé Sky, and wants her father to be present to give her away.  Unfortunately, she does not know who her father is. After reading Donna's  20-year-old diary, she concludes he is one of three men: Sam Carmichael, Harry Bright, or Bill Anderson. Without telling her mother or fiancé, Sophie mails wedding invitations to all three.  The men come to the island, thinking Donna asked them to come. Donna's two best friends have also come to the island for the wedding. They are the forever single and fun-loving writer  Rosie, and the wealthy and pampered three-time divorcé Tanya. The three longtime friends were once an '80s singing group called Donna and the Dynamos.  The women bond in Donna's time of turmoil as Sophie's paternity is pondered.  At the end of a frenzied weekend a wedding takes place, but perhaps not quite the one that was planned.

Susie McMonagle is wonderful as Donna.  She sings and acts the part very well.  Her performance in "The Winner Takes It All" is especially good, as it is a difficult acting moment in the show, and she wisely holds off belting the song until the every end when it really means something.  John Hemphill, who plays Sam, has a beautiful pop singing voice, which is a relief to hear after the way the role was butchered vocally in the film.  Kittra Wynn Coomer is very funny as Rosie.  Her dry sense of humor and comic mugging sell the role. Martin Kildare has a dashing, jaunty quality as Bill.  Michelle Dawson has charm and style as Tanya, but needs to turn up the volume in her singing voice, and the heat in her strut in "Does Your Momma Know."  Michael Aaron Lindner has warmth as Harry Bright, and his English accent is flawless, even when singing. 

The energetic dancing and singing is crisp and fun, though the men are cleaner and more together than the woman in the ensemble numbers.  The weak spots in this production are the two young leads.  Rose Sezniak as Sophie sounds more like 15 than 20 years old when she sings, and she never really wins are hearts in a performance without depth. She is matched with an equally callow performance by Geoffrey Hemingway, who seems inexperienced as an actor, as Sky.  He establishes no chemistry with his co-star on stage, and presents the audience with a character that is nothing more than a smile and a swagger. This aside, the meat of the story is about the adults, and they are well worth watching in this production filled with wonderful songs.

ABBA skyrocketed to fame after winning a Swedish Eurovision Song Contest in 1972. The quartet was comprised of members Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Anni-Frid Lyngstad (Frida) and Agnetha Fältskog. They gained international popularity by writing songs with simple lyrics and catchy melodies, and offering a full but clean sound achieved by overdubbing the female singers' voices in multiple harmonies. ABBA broke up in 1982 having sold almost 400 million records world wide. The group still sells two to three million records per year, and their songs remain on the most requested playlists of many radio stations.

Stanford Broadway Across America - Ft. Lauderdale is presented in arrangement with the Florida Theatrical Association, which is a non-profit, civic organization with a volunteer board of trustees established to ensure the continued presentation of quality national touring Broadway productions in the state of Florida. Broadway Across America is dedicated to creating memorable and accessible theatrical experiences for all guests, selling over five million tickets to first rate Broadway shows, family productions and other live theatrical events in over 40 North American cities each year. For more information or to purchase tickets through an authorized agent, please visit www.BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com.

Mamma Mia! appeared January 20th - February 1st, 2009 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. For tickets and/or information on the many diverse offering of the Broward center for the Performing Arts you may contact them at 954-462-0222 or online at www.browardcenter.org. Tickets may also available in person through Ticketmaster by phone at 954-523-3309 in Broward County, in person at Ticketmaster outlets, or online at www.ticketmaster.com.

Cast:
Donna: Susie McMonagle
Sophie: Rose Sezniak
Rosie: Kittra Wynn Coomer
Tanya: Michelle Dawson
Sam Carmichael: John Hemphill
Bill Austin: Martin Kildare
Harry Bright: Michael Aaron Lindner
Sky: Geoffrey Hemingway
Eddie: Anthony Cefala
Pepper: Adam Michael Kaokept
Lisa: Nicole Laurenzi
Ali: Monette McKay
Ensemble: Katy Blake, Sara Braslow, Donell James Foreman, Natalie Gallo, Eric Giancola, Nathan Alan Johnson, Leah Joseph, Whitney Claire Kaufman, Ian Knauer, Stephanie Lynge, Ayme Olivo, David Reiser, Damien DeShaun Smith, Robert J. Townsend, Rachel Tyler, Bradley Whitfield

Crew:
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Musical Director: Bill Congdon
Choreography: Anthony Van Laast
Sound Design: Andrew Bruce & Bobby Aitken
Lighting Design: Howard Harrison
Stage Manager: Michael Pule

The actors and stage managers in this production are members of Actor's Equity Association, the union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere



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