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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 16, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 07
Locally grown Mamma Mia! is sweet and wacky
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Locally grown Mamma Mia! is sweet and wacky

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

MAMMA MIA!
5TH AVENUE THEATRE
Through February 25


The musical, Mamma Mia!, is almost too sweet. Certainly it's a confection and maybe, for some, not their dessert of choice. But for most, it's a silly, joyous, ridiculous story using boatloads of ABBA tunes that were revamped by the original ABBA writers with a few new lyrics that turn them into songs that fit a musical.

The Story Primer, if you need it:

A 20 year-old woman is getting married on the Greek Island she was raised on by her single mom. She finds Mom's diary and discovers her missing father might be one of three different men and she invites them to the wedding behind Mom's back. They arrive and histories are revealed. Will her father walk her down the aisle? Will she say 'I do, I do, I do, I do'?

The stage musical has been touring for years, coming into Seattle on a regular basis and usually selling briskly. The 5th Avenue Theatre is the first regional theatre to be granted the rights to produce the musical on local terms. Aside from a couple of imports, the entire cast is local and the designers, directors, and musicians get to put a new stamp of their own on the material.

There is something very folksy and relatable to this production that is different from the tours. It's a little more low-key, but the tour was so very over-the-top that anything less gaudy would feel more low-key. There are moments in this production that are downright WACKY! And that works so very well that I wished more of the production could have followed through on that road.

Two of those wacky, wonderful moments were when Matt Wolfe as Bill and Sarah Rudinoff as Rosie sing 'Take a Chance on Me,' where Rosie woos shy, awkward Bill until he just has to give in to her, and when Lisa Estridge (who we love to see back from Chicago as much as possible) as Tanya taunts the young man hitting on her (Jonathan Luke Stevens, who dances up a storm with her) with 'Does Your Mother Know?' and makes the audience cheer.

The lovely young couple of Eliza Palasz and Jordan Iosua Taylor as Sophie and Sky could have used a bit more of that wackiness. They had solid chemistry, but played it almost too realistically when they could have been allowed to be funnier, rather than so earnestly in love. I'd just encourage director Bill Berry to allow himself to keep taking those chances and if he's found new ground to break to spread it wider in a future production.

The scenic design by Jason Sherwood was a beautiful-looking fishbowl effect with small set pieces that rose from the ground and swung down from the ceiling and generally looked ethereally lovely and cohesive. The colorful costuming from Rose Pederson created splashes of color against the set, but also set the more relaxed tone of this production by leaving off most of the over-the-top costuming until the curtain call songs (THREE of them!) where the cast gauds up to audience applause.

The terrific cast also includes Paolo Montalban as Sam, Cobey Mandarino as Harry, Travis Brown, Kate E. Cook, and Alexandria Henderson. And the undoubted star of the production is pure-voiced, comic/tragic can-do-it-all talent, Kendra Kassebaum as beleaguered single mother Donna. Kassebaum has an unmistakeable voice that sounds like it might only fit a few roles, but we have seen, time after time, what a range of talent she has. Most recently, she gave a strong and moving performance in last year's Ragtime as Mother.

Kassebaum also gets to be a bit wacky during Mamma Mia as the others freeze and she acts out how desperate she feels for Sam's love - choreographer Bob Richard having her crawl on the floor, too. Then she breaks our hearts as she belts 'The Winner Takes It All'!

If glitter is your bag, wait until curtain call to get your heart's content. There's plenty of cheer to sweep away the rain and gloom outside in this unlikely totally likeable musical!

For more information, call 206-625-1900 or go to www.5thavenue.org.

Discuss your opinions with SGNcritic@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters. More articles can be found at MiryamsTheaterMusings.blogspot.com.

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