Theatre Review: MAMMA MIA at City Theater

City Theater Company Mounts an Imaginative Mamma Mia

 

For the last 25 years City Theater Company has been producing high quality theater in the city of Wilmington. They have had a few different venues, but the excellence of their product has not wavered.  Director Mary Catherine Kelley has added another notch with her incredibly inventive production of Mamma Mia.  There appears to be a trend in smaller theaters to creatively use their small spaces to mount full musicals.  I love watching these.  I believe it lets the story come through, and in the hands of directors like Kelley, you might not even miss the sets and extra chorus.

Mamma Mia with words and music by ABBA members Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus with additional music by Stig Anderson, contains a score that is familiar to many.  The book by Catherine Johnson invites us to the wedding of single mother Donna’s, daughter Sophie.  The bride has decided to find out who was her father.  She learns that it could have been one of three men, all of whom she invites to her wedding.  Confusion ensues, and everybody ends up where they should have been.

The other thing that a scaled down production like this yield is that the director casts very talented and versatile actors.  The cast provides all the set movement.  They do so quickly and precisely. They also serve as chorus. The production numbers are filled in by the principals serving as chorus.  The actors looked like they really enjoyed themselves when they were singing and dancing in the background.  The director ingeniously has cast members sitting off stage to sing in the background. The choreography by Jackie Kappus is very innovative.  It doesn’t require actors to work out of their comfort zone and yet it looks crisp and appropriate throughout.  Joe Trainer’s music is wonderful.  The band is fabulous, albeit at times a bit loud.  They are visible and an active part of the show. The set and lights (designed by Vicki Neal and Richard A. Kenrick) likewise are effective and subtle.  The lights especially add a near disco light support for the bigger group numbers.

As I mentioned before the cast is universally excellent.  Their energy pours through in every number.  As Donna, Kerry Kristine McElrone is wonderfully nuanced.  She explores all sides of her character’s emotional roller coaster.  As her daughter, Darby McLaughlin captures the confusion and insecurity that drives the plot.  The groom, Sky, Trevor Fayle is both talented and charming.   Her three fathers do a wonderful job.  Righteous Jolly, Nick Hunchak, and Dale Martin each have their individual moments as well as yeoman work in the chorus.  Rounding out the principals are the lovely Kat Pigliacampi as the sexually charged Tanya and Dionne Williford as the steady Rosie.  Rosie does, however have her own sexually charged moment with Bill in “Take a Chance on Me.”

The rest of the cast includes Emma Orr and Pam Atkinson as Sophie’s best friends, Rob Hull, Jeff Hunsicker and Dominic Santos in many roles.  These five handle the lion’s share of set movement and background work.  Director Kelley, however, has made sure that each has his or her moment to shine.

If you are looking for a fun time, I highly recommend this wonderful production.  It is done in a cabaret style which contributes to the fun.  It continues until December 15th at Studio One at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington.  For tickets and information go online at thegrandwilmington.org.

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