What’s the Name of the Game?
Combine the infectious music of Abba with an endearing love story set in the 1990s, and you have the ever-popular Mamma Mia! It’s an instant crowd-pleaser. I was fortunate enough to travel to Edmonton to see the production currently on stage at the Citadel Theatre. This high energy production, set on a thrust stage resembling the Stratford Festival, is as good as it gets.
Sophie is 20 years old and eager to marry her boyfriend, Skye. But Sophie’s mom, Donna, is a product of the seventies. She never married, and was the lead singer in a pop group, Donna and the Dynamos, complete with gold lamé, lots of fringe and tight, spandex bell bottoms. Sophie is eager to know who her father is: she reads her mother’s diary and finds out she has three possible fathers. Assuming she’ll intuitively know which of the three her father is, she invites all of them to her wedding.
Known as a jukebox musical, Mamma Mia! features Abba’s hits, spanning the years from 1974 to 1982, woven around the plot. Somehow, it fits together surprisingly well.
Tess Benger owns the stage as bride-to-be Sophie. She charms the audience right from the opening number with her sweet rendition of “I Have a Dream” where she kisses the three invitations goodbye at the mail box. Her singing of “The Name of the Game” is a heartfelt and impassioned plea to find out who her father is. Later, when she walks in with her wedding gown over her arms, asking for her mom’s help, no mother in the audience has a dry eye.
Patricia Zentilli is excellent as Sophie’s mother, Donna, singing “The Winner Takes It All” with great emotion. The chemistry between Benger and Zentilli is obvious. Interesting to note that Zentilli was actually Benger’s babysitter many years ago!
As Donna and the Dynamos, Zentilli is joined by Jenni Burke and Christy Adamson. Burke has spot-on comedic timing as she flirts her way through the song “Take a Chance on Me”. Adamson is the perfect smart and sassy diva, warding off her young admirer with a racy rendition of “Does Your Mother Know”.
Michael Cox is a charming groom-to-be and the three potential fathers are all delightfully different and equally charismatic: John Ullyatt (Sam), Leon Willey (Harry), and Ashley Wright (Bill).
The entire cast is high energy, and the thrust stage is used to its full advantage, filled with lively dancing, along with powerful singing. Thanks to Director Ashlie Corcoran, the fast pace is maintained throughout with quick scene changes. Credit also goes to set and costume designer Cory Sincennes who takes us to a Greek island, and gives us the most sparkling, sequinned finale ever seen!
If you’re in Edmonton or can get there in the next few weeks, make sure you see Mamma Mia! It is exactly what’s needed to chase away the winter blahs!
Mamma Mia! continues at the Citadel Theatre, Edmonton until March 18. Visit http://www.citadeltheatre.com/2017-2018/mamma-mia for tickets.
Photo: Left: Tess Benger (centre) as Sophie. Right: Ensemble. Photos by Epic Photography.
Mamma Mia! ~ 2018
Music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus
Book by Catherine Johnson
Originally conceived by Judy Craymer
Directed by Ashlie Corcoran
Musical Direction by Don Horsburgh
Choreographed by Laura Krewski
Performed by Christy Adamson, Tess Benger, Jenni Burke, Michael Cox, JJ Gerber, Tara Jackson, Alison Roberts, Robbie Towns, John Ullyatt, Leon Willey, Ashley Wright, Patricia Zentilli, with Thomas Alderson, Karina Cox, Julio Fuentes, Trudy Lee Gayle, Alex Kelly Corben Kushneryk, Melanie Piatocha, Synthia Ysuf.
Produced by Citadel Theatre
Maclab Stage, Citadel Theatre, Edmonton
February 22 to March 18, 2018
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
Note: the reviewer’s son is part of the cast.