Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Coronado Playhouses “Mamma Mia!” Is A Rockin’ Jolly Good Time.

There are certain times of the year that we the people are ready for a change, and I don’t mean just a time change, although that’s bad enough, but I won’t go into that. I mean a change of pace leaning into the fantastical and away from the reality of the fiasco going on in Washington.  Abba’s “Mamma Mia!” might just be what the doctor ordered.
Olivia Lucci and Connor Boyd
Call it a sit-com, a romantic comedy, a comedy-drama. Call it what you like, but you can’t deny it’s just a fun romp featuring 23 of Abba’s songs wrapped around and woven through that fantastical plot that has been played out in theatres and movies across the world over the past twenty or so years. Director/ actor and choreographer Jennie Gray Conrad is at the helm of this high-energy frolic closing out Coronado’s 73rd season.

The theatre rocks with the likes of  “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 and it's all under the Musical Direction of Conductor Kirk Valles and  the “Mamma Mia!” Band 
Cast of "Mamma Mia!"
With the songs and music of Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus written originally for ABBA, the book by Catherine Johnson is so well… fantastical/out of the realm of reality that one has to “Take A Chance On well…Love.

It’s the story of young Sophie Sheridan, sweet and charming “I Have A Dream” and “Honey Honey” Olivia Lucci, whose last turn was in “All Shook Up” at SDMT. She a perfect fit as the lovely, big voiced  and indecisive teen who wants to have a real wedding and walk down the isle with her 'real' Dad.    

Sophie is planning a conventional wedding to the handsome sweet, island drop in, Sky (Connor Boyd who we recently saw in “Dog Fight ) “Lay All Your Love On Me”. She always dreamed about having her Dad walk her down the isle. Sky was on board with it all although he was OK with somethung small and 'island grown'.

Sophie's dream is no problem for those that know who their Dad's are.  Not so in the life of Sophie. You see her mother Donna (a loveable but clueless Chrissy Burns -“Mamma Mia!”), feisty, forty- something and who was part of a singing group called the “Dynamos” when she was younger never told anyone she was 'with child'. She never married and brought Sophie up as a single Mom.  

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.
Chrissy Burns and Olivia Lucci
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 invitation's (that supposedly came 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 or nothing about.

The three ‘father’s’ include, Sam (a pleasing Barron Henzel, “Knowing Me Knowing You”), Bill, (Steven Jensen “Thank You For The Music”) and finally out of the closet Harry  (Thomas Fitzpatrick, “Our Last Summer”). All three left the island, after their so- called sojourn, and Donna behind. She now struggles to runs a nice little hotel and cantina and ekes out a living for both herself and Sophie.

Donna’s old girlfriends and singing buddies (the “Dynamos”, “Super Trooper”) Tanya and Rosie (Dawn Marie Zuniga-Williams and Heather Deerfield) were also invited to the wedding, this time by Donna. For the most part they steal the show with their antics and good humor, (“Dancing Queen).
'The Dynamo's'- Dawn Marie Ziniga-Williams, Chrissy Burns and Heather Deerfield
Perfectly cast and age appropriate Deerfield is a hoot as the prankster of the three. Her little shtick toward the end with Jensen’s Bill is a hoot. (“Take A Chance on Me”). The looks on his face are worth a trip across the bridge. 

Zuniga-Williams’ Tanya knocks herself out flirting and teasing the self- proclaimed and muscular ladies man Pepper (Tyler Kirk). The three women and close friends couldn't be more different in personalities than they were cast but that's what makes it so much fun. 

The large cast of over twenty plus the women’s and men’s ensemble moved about just fine on the double decker set designed by Shaun Tuazon-Martin.

It takes a village to mount a show filled with this much youthful energy, mature and hysterical shenanigans and over the top and funny performance’s and those responsible for the overall looks and sounds, in part but not necessarily in any order include: Marc Caro co-choreographed with Ms. Conrad, sound designer Jack Conrad, lighting designers Josh Olmstead and Anthony Zelig, and designers from costume designer Marcene Drysdale to Thrifsy’s Unique Boutique to Cecilia Aragon (Menswear).
Steven Jensen, Barron Henzel and Thomas Fitzpatrick
It matters not that I’ve seen this show more times that I care to count. What matter’s is that this production came at the right time for the right reasons and Conrad’s choices and cast lived up to my expectations. I laughed, I cheered and I clapped. In short I had fun and recommend it to all the fun and young at heart that want to celebrate a blast from the past. 

And in case you were worried, it all turns out as it was supposed to. 

See you at the theatre.
The Gang's All Here.
Dates: Through Dec. 15th
Organization: Coronado Playhouse
Phone: 619-435-4856
Production Type: Musical
Where: 1835 Strand Way, Coronado, CA 92118
Ticket Prices: Start at $22.00
Web: coronadoplayhouse.com
Photo: Ken Jacques


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