My, oh, Mamma Mia!
The Chemainus Theatre Festival’s production of Mamma Mia! checks all the boxes of a mega hit.
Sensational singing. Check.
Memorable music. Check.
Captivating choreography. Check.
Creative costumes. Check.
Amazing acting. Check.
Essential emotion. Check.
Superb set. Check.
The list goes on.
That’s two productions this year already that easily rank among the theatre’s top five best of all time. First, there was The Sound of Music Feb. 15-April 6 and now Mamma Mia! that’s just hit the stage to begin a long run until Aug. 31. Mamma Mia! will become the theatre’s best-selling show ever and the top seller on all of Vancouver Island once it’s done.
Mamma Mia! also has to be considered the No. 1, depending on personal taste, or at the very least No. 2 best performance ever at the theatre for all-around audience satisfaction. It’s the complete package.
“I loved it,” was a familiar refrain heard by people as they left the theatre on opening night.
There was something in this performance to appeal to all tastes. It’s a musical and brought back abundant memories for those who grew up when ABBA was rocketing to stardom or were born later and learned all about the Swedish super group and grew to love all its songs, but also a very well-presented dramatic comedy in between.
All those ABBA tunes are bound to run through your mind well after leaving the theatre – the title track, of course, and so many other hits such as Dancing Queen (the group’s only No. 1 song on the Billboard charts), Take a Chance On Me that featured a very funny sequence of events, Knowing Me, Knowing You and so many more.
This is one of those shows where you never looked at your watch and the time seemed to pass so quickly. In fact, no one wanted it to end judging by the huge rollicking dance concert that broke out at the end as a long encore.
There was just so much to like about this production, it’s hard to know where to start. The dialogue featured many creative lines, the ABBA songs were interspersed perfectly into the scenes and the characters were all so likeable you felt like you became fast friends with them just from viewing them on stage.
Sophie (Alex Gullason) invites three men to her wedding who all spent time with her mother Donna (Stephanie Roth) around the time she would have been conceived and the fun begins. Sophie wants desperately to find out which of the three is actually her father. In the end, it didn’t really matter. She finds herself and that’s more important.
“Buildings are my baby, you can tell which ones are yours,” gushed architect Sam (Jonathan Winsby), one of the possible fathers, in an ironic statement when he arrives at the site of the wedding (not knowing he’s going to a wedding) on a Mediterranean island where Donna who owns a small inn and once spent time with all three of the potential father figures there.
Gullason, Roth, Jenni Burke, Erin Ormond, Winsby, Kieran Martin Murphy and Graham Coffeng are all tremendous in their lead roles. The entire supporting cast also takes the show to another level with exceptional singing, dancing and acting.
Watch for one scene with the guys prancing around wearing flippers along the beach. Incredible.
The talent here defies description. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll sing along and be entertained beyond belief.
The performance moved seamlessly from one scene to another, with all the acting crew helping to move props around so quickly you hardly have time to catch your breath.
Huge kudos to director Barbara Tomasic, music director Meredith Zwicker, choreographer Nicol Spinola, set/costume designer Drew Facey, lighting designer Craig Alfredson, stage manager Angela Beaulieu, assistant stage manager Liz King, apprentice stage manager Becca Jorgensen, the music ensemble and the entire creative team leading right back to artistic director Mark DuMez for this incredible piece of work.
The only drawback was the music level overtaking the singers’ voice projections on their microphones on a couple of songs on opening night, but we’re sure they have that corrected by now. Otherwise, flawless.
One other mammoth production remains on the schedule before the end of an incredible year for the theatre at Christmastime with Miracle On 34th Street Nov. 15-Dec. 29.
What on earth can theatre personnel do for an encore in 2020? We’re sure they’ll have something big up their sleeves.