By Ron Baumanis
Sophie is getting married. She has three possible dads. That’s about all you need to know about Mamma Mia!, the mega-hit international musical that opened at the Encore Musical Theatre Company in Dexter last night. It doesn’t really matter what else happens in this storyline, because it is about the ABBA music and the fun and the feel-good evening that it’s really all about. And boy, will you feel good, and you’ll be singing the songs all the next morning as well.
Encore pulls out all the stops in their biggest, slickest musical ever, and I say that in the most enthusiastic way. What a thrill to see a big cast on their stage. It’s the closest you will come to seeing the Broadway show plunked down in the middle of Dexter, with all the bells and whistles (thank Dan Cooney who appeared in the Broadway production, and his choice of Monica Kapoor, also a 7-year veteran of the production, to direct and choreograph.)
What you will see on the Encore stage is the best-choreographed, best-acted production of Mamma Mia! you will ever see locally, and bravo to everyone involved.
Sarah B. Stevens plays Donna, and Kate Cummings plays her daughter Sophie – about the get married to Sky (Tyler J. Messinger). Stevens and Cummings are superb throughout the evening in their many scenes together and separately. Donna’s best friends from “back when” Rosie and Tanya are played by Sonja Marquis and Anna Elizabeth and they are both fantastic.
Once the guys arrive (Sebastian Gerstner as Harry, Keith Kalinoswki as Bill, and David Moan as Sam) the evening kicks into high gear. Which one is the father? It doesn’t really matter. Everything is a setup for the spectacular song and dance numbers.
And wow, does this show dance. Kapoor is familiar with every beat, every move, every motion set to music – and I guarantee you that you have not seen this type of choreography in any local production. The cast is really split in two — the adults, who show their singing and acting chops, and the “kids” who explode with energy every time they take the stage in their many musical numbers.
By the end, there is a wedding, though not exactly what you might expect and the audience is up on its feet for the final dance-along numbers. It just plain old works. And when you see a production that is professionally directed, choreographed, acted, and designed, you can appreciate a show that is far better than you might recall, especially if you have only seen the movie.
Set Design by Sarah Tanner is outstanding, as is Nikki Belenski’s lighting design (and Will Myers projections). Sharon Larkey Urick’s costume design is spot on. Anne Donevan provides a million props (I exaggerate, but only a little) and Chris Goosman’s sound design deftly juggles a large orchestra and performers. Musical Direction is under the always-capable and talented direction of Tyler Driskill. The technical aspects of this production simply shine.
Read this review on The Sun Times