By Barbara Anne Kirschner
You are cordially invited
For the destination wedding
By Sophie and Sky
At an inn on a Greek island.
BUT Before Sophie can walk down the aisle, a riddle must be solved.
Theater Three has done it again and in a big way with the light-hearted musical comedy Mamma Mia! The musical with the songs of the Swedish pop sensation ABBA.
The band, led by the accomplished Jeffrey Hoffman, kicks off the happy celebrations with an overture of ABBA hits. Even if you weren’t alive when this ’70s rock group was big, the songs are infectious and sure to delight all ages.
Producer Judy Craymer is credited with pitching the idea for this show to Swedish ABBA songwriters and original band members Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson in 1983. British playwright Catherine Johnson has been brought on board to weave a story around these popular hits and Mamma Mia! was born.
The show was an international sensation, including productions in London’s West End and on Broadway. It is the eighth longest-running musical in West End history and the 18th longest-running musical on Broadway, where it opened at the Winter Garden Theater on October 18, 2001 and ran until September 12, 2015.
The story revolves around Sophie, who discovers her mother Donna’s old journal, only to find entries describing her dating twenty-one years ago with three men – Sam Carmichael, Bill Austin and Harry Bright – in this island paradise that she now has owns, was intimate. One of these three men is Sophie’s father, but which one?
Sophie, who is about to be married, has visions of her father leading her down the aisle, so she sends her invitations from her mother, but doesn’t let Donna know what she’s done. She is sure that the moment she sees the men, she will recognize her father. The men accept and the plot is full of comedic and emotional twists when they show up at Donna’s inn on the Greek island.
Director Jeffrey Sanzel did a masterful job casting this show and the results are sheer perfection.
Cassidy Rose O’Brien’s Sophie is gorgeous with a rich vibrato that envelops songs like I have a dream. O’Brien and Eric J. Hughes, as her fiancé Sky, have great chemistry. A cute piece shows Sky and his buddies maneuvering scuba fins while teaming up with O’Brien Lay all your love on me shows how silly, playful and sexy these two are together.
Steve Corbellini as Donna’s special love, Sam, delivers a heartfelt performance that soars in his duet with Christina Muens (Donna). SOS Dennis Setteducati is hysterical as unmarried adventurer and writer Bill. His duet with Rosie continues give me a chance is a crazy whirlwind choreographed by Sari Feldman who can always be counted on to tell stories through dance. Andrew Boza’s Harry is reminiscent of a Monty Python character with its humorous British twist.
To add a subtle touch of humor to the plot, Donna has invited over her best friends, with whom she once called herself in a girl group Donna and the Dynamos. When these women arrive, the three have a great reunion while reminiscing about past exploits.
There’s rich Tanya (Stephanie Moreau), who’s been married three times, and airy Rosie (Lori Beth Belkin), who’s never married. These three women are the heart of the show, distinguished by their impeccable comedic timing and exuberant renditions of songs like dancing queen, chiquitaand Super Trooper. Muens is fabulous as Donna with her powerhouse voice that causes chills, especially in the standout The winner gets everything.
The cast is joined by a lively ensemble that fills the stage with song and dance.
Costumes from Ronald Green III illustrate the characters’ personalities, from Bill’s Indiana Jones-style hunting hat to Tanya’s elegantly flowing outfits to Donna’s flashy silver disco dresses and the dynamos and all the glitter.
The scenic design by Randall Parsons deftly slides from the main inn to a bedroom and back again, while the lighting design by Robert Henderson, Jr. accentuates the moods with well-placed neon columns illuminating different colors.
The finale is intoxicating with Donna, Tanya and Rosie joined by Sam, Bill and Harry who appear in colorful ABBA-inspired costumes and are joined by the entire company draped in sequins. They invite the audience to a dance party with the songs Mamma Mia, dancing queen and Waterloo.
For an exuberant evening of theater, let yourself be drawn into the world of ABBA music at Donna’s fun Greek island resort mamma mia!, is playing at Theater Three, 412 Main Street, Port Jefferson now through June 25th. Tickets are $35 for adults, $28 for seniors and students, $20 for children 5 and older. PPlease note that this show contains adult themes and situations. For more information or to order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com
I saw first Mamma Mia! At the Mandalay Bay Hotel in 2003 while visiting my uncle who lived in Las Vegas. It was such a magical production full of energy and spirit that I couldn’t wait to take my niece and nephew to see the Broadway production, but to my surprise, I left the Winter Garden Theater disappointed. I’m happy to say that Theater Three’s production has the spirit and energy that drew me to Vegas. If you love musical theater, you must see this show. You will leave the theater smiling, dancing and singing to the beat.