To the delight of Moonlight fans and in celebration of Moonlight Stage Production’s 38th summer, producing artistic director has chosen a clear crowd pleaser by all accounts by mounting the jukebox musical “Mamma Mia!”
|Karyn Overstreet, Bets MAlone and Barbara Schoenhofer|
It’s a fun musical with the songs and music of Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus written originally for ABBA and are the main attraction. The book by Catherine Johnson, is so ho hum that after a while, you just look forward to hearing the music which is made to fit around the story of the young Sophie Sheridan (beautifully soprano voiced Katie Sapper) who is planning a conventional wedding to the handsome and muscular Sky (Nicholas Sloan “Lay All Your Love On Me”) and always dreamed about having her Dad walk her down the isle.
|The Dads Lance Arthur Smith, Roberrt J. Townsend and JAson W. Webb with Katie Sapper|
No problem for those who know who their Dad is. Not so in the life of Sophie. You see her mother Donna (Bets Malone) is feisty, forty- something and used to be part of a singing group called the “Dynamos”. She is still single but way back then she had a tryst with three different young men when they were all young and foot loose. It all happened somewhere on a small Greek Island 21 years ago.
|Katie Sapper and Robert J. Townsend|
Donna never told Sophie about them but for the sake of expediency Sophie gets hold of an old diary of her Mom’s. After reading it Sophie finds out the names of the there men in her mom’s life, who at that time she was gaga over and possibly had affairs with, and sends all three an invitation (that was supposed to come from Donna) to the wedding.
The mystery: Donna knows nothing of this and the three men, now into the same forties as Donna are flummoxed as to why they have been invited to a wedding of someone they know little about.
There is Sam (Robert J. Townsend “Knowing Me Knowing You”), Bill, (Lance Arthur Smith) and Harry (Jason W.Webb). All three left the island leaving Donna behind. She now runs a nice little hotel and cantina and ekes out a living for both herself and Sophie.
None knew she was ‘with child’ and now they, all three potential Dads’ show up thinking Donna invited them. She’s as confused as they, especially after Sophie asks all three to walk her down the isle. (“Thank You For The Music”)
|Nicholas Sloan and Katie Sapper|
Needless to say, it all works out; conundrum aside, and ABBA fans get to hear no less than 23 favorite songs including “Dancing Queen”, “Mamma Mia”, “Take A Chance On Me”, “Winner Takes It All” “Voulez-Vous”, “Knowing Me, Knowing You”, and “Slipping Through My Fingers” among others all under Musical director and conductor Lyndon Peguda’s baton.
The production is filled with a combination of youthful energy and mature and over the top funny/ hysterical shenanigans. On opening night the entire ensemble was on top of their game that left the audience on their collective feet when the whole cast came out for curtain call in their full on pull up Lycra costumes coordinated by Carlotta Malone, Roslyn Lehman and Renatta Lloyd, designed by Alexandra Johnson and provided by 3-D Theatricals.
Sapper, looking heavenly in her wedding dress, whose credits include” Sunset Boulevard” and “Titanic” has a gorgeous (“I Have A Dream”) voice and with acting credits to go along; “I want my Dad to walk me down the isle” bit.
|Bets Malone and Cast|
There is strong chemistry between Bets Malone’s Donna and Sapper’s Sophie that lends credibility to their mother daughter relationship. (“Slipping Through My Fingers”). Ms. Malone has the right chops for the Abba sound and uses them to her advantage.
Donna’s old girlfriends and singing buddies (the “Dynamos”) Tanya and Rosie (Barbara Shoenhofer and Karyn Overstreet) who were also invited to the wedding helped steal the show with their antics and good humor, (“Dancing Queen”) especially Shoenhofer, whose legs don’t stop and what a terrific dancer. Overstreet is a hoot as the prankster of the three and her little shtick with Smith’s Bill is a hoot. (“Take A Chance on Me”)
Other than that the three ‘father’s’ are about as exciting as watching grass grow. They come, they go, and they bring little pieces of forty- year history with them that refuses to be reconciled any time soon.
Townsend’s Sam and Malone’s Donna dance a dance but seem miles apart until the last scenes (no spoiler here in case you’ve never seen the show). He wants to talk, she wants to have nothing to do with him, or so it seems. (“The Winner Takes It All”)
|Lance Arthur Smith and Karyn Overstreet|
The talented ensemble of young people, who do a good amount of dancing (and with fins on their feet to boot) create some semblance of excitement on the island with Nicholas Alexander’s Pepper making a big pass at Tanya as she plays him like a violin.
But it’s the dancing (by director/choreographer John Vaughn) along with the 23 or so Abba songs that give this particular musical most of its pizzazz. With an ensemble of fifteen strong acting as chorus behind a wall that separates land from ocean (Stephen Gifford) and Jean-Yves Tessier’s smart, colorful and playful lighting/spots et al that adds another dimension to the spirit and overall look of the production.
|"The Dancing Queens"|
So what’s not to like? Nothing!.
Go, see, enjoy, sing along and have fun, it’s Abba after all.
Coming up next “1776”
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through June 30th
Organization: Moonlight Stage Productions
Production Type: Musical
Where: 1250 Vale Terrace Drive, Vista, CA 92084
Ticket Prices: Start at $52.00
Photo: Ken Jacques and Adriana Zuniga