Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Mamma Mia!
Ivoryton Playhouse
Review by Zander Opper | Season Schedule

Also see Fred's review of Selling Kabul and Zander's review of Pippin


Carly Callahan, Laiona Michelle, and Jessie Alagna
Photo by Jonathan Steele
For a joyous evening out, I doubt you could do better than to see Mamma Mia! at Ivoryton Playhouse. This musical has been seen all around the world, with a constant stream of productions, so one might think that one more regional staging of the mega-hit would be less than exciting.

But there is a freshness about this Mamma Mia! that allows the show to be seen with new eyes. The production has been perfectly cast and director/choreographer JR Bruno has staged the show delightfully. The lovely scenic design by Glenn Bassett almost makes you feel like you are on an island in Greece, and the score by ABBA composers Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus sounds great as played by the off-stage orchestra under the dynamite musical direction of David John Madore. The magic onstage is totally infectious, almost guaranteeing a good time for the audience.

This production of Mamma Mia! employs more than twenty actors. Thankfully, all of the leading roles have been given to performers who bring out the best in each of their characters. As Donna, Laiona Michelle is just wonderful and she makes quite an impression late in the show with the back to back numbers "Slipping Through My Fingers" and "The Winner Takes It All." As Donna's daughter Sophie, Stephanie Gomerez is a real charmer and scores in the songs "Honey, Honey" and the wistful "I Have a Dream."

Jessie Alagna and Carly Callahan are terrific as Donna's best friends Rosie and Tonya, respectively. Alagna brings a great deal of humor to her part, particularly in her rendition of "Take a Chance on Me," and Callahan is even spicier, as Tonya frolics with younger men, and singing "Does Your Mother Know?" The three actresses playing best friends perform together with pure exhilaration, particularly in "Dancing Queen" and "Super Trouper."

As the three men Sophie has invited to the island for her wedding, Billy Clark Taylor, Cooper Grodin, and Dane Agostinis all shine and do very well with the song "Thank You for the Music." As Sophie's fiancé Sky, Jack Kay is just right, especially in the number he shares with Gomerez, "Lay All Your Love on Me." Ultimately, the entire cast is excellent, right down to the smallest roles.

Adding to the tropical ambiance, the costume design by Elizabeth A. Saylor is gorgeous, and lighting designer Marcus Abbott's work is sensational, being able to help sculpt individual scenes with his work. For a show that is very light on its feet (the book is by Catherine Johnson), the contribution of assistant choreographer Nigel Hall is expert, and he works very well with director/choreographer JR Bruno, who may just be this production's biggest hero.

So, go to Ivoryton Playhouse to hear the great ABBA songs, sung to a fare-the-well by a perfect company of actors in a production that is a definite tonic from beginning to end.

Mamma Mia! continues performances at Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton, CT through July 28, 2019. For tickets, please visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org or call the box office 860-767-7318.


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