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‘Mamma Mia’ moves to a vibrant disco beat


It doesn’t matter if you have seen’ Mamma Mia’ before. As an audience member sitting next to me at the Marriott Theatre said, “I saw it on Broadway. This is better.”

A jukebox musical based on the songs of ABBA, the Marriott production has it all: terrific solos, great dance numbers, fine staging and a perfect combo of light and sound that brings back the 1970s disco era. A Swedish group, ABBA was performing, basically from 1972 to 1982.

Marriott’s theater-in-the–round design is perfect for ‘Mamma Mia’ set on a Greek island by British playwright Catherine Johnson.

But even more important, the show is directed by Rachel Rockwell. A multi Jeff award winner in the categories of Best Musical, Choreography and Director, Rockwell has a finely-tuned dancer’s instinct for how to pull together music and movement.

As ‘Mamma Mia’s’ director, Rockwell  is also working with a talented cast that includes Danni Smith as Donna Sheridan, a member of a retired trio who is a single mother and owner of a taverna. Smith, a memorable Aldonza in Marriott’s ‘Man of La Mancha,’ does a fabulous “The Winner Takes it All” number.

Tiffany Tatreau who some Marriott goers might remember as Mary Robert in ‘Sister Act’ fits well into the role of Donna’s young daughter, Sophie Sheridan. Sophie plans to marry Sky (Russell Mernagh), another young islander but she wants her father to walk her down the aisle.

The problem posed in ‘Mamma Mia’ is that Sophie finds out that her mother had relations with three lovers during the crucial conception time. So Sophie invites all three to her wedding in hopes of learning who her dad is.

It’s fun to watch the three men, Sam Carmichael (Peter Saide) Harry Bright (Karl Hamilton) and Bill Austin (Derek Hasenstab) dawning awareness that Sophie might be their daughter.

However, the trio that really makes the show are the now retired band singers Donna, Tanay (Meghan Murphy) and Rosie (Cassie Slater).

The sexy, mature Murphy does a fabulous tease number “Does Your Mother Know” with Pepper (Liam Quealy), another young islander. And Slater does a fun “Take a Chance on Me” with Hasenstab.

But the number that brings the house down is Sheridan, Murphy and Slater’s rendition of “Dancing Queen.”

Kudos go to Ericka Mac, a performer who is gaining a reputation for choreography, Set Designer Scott Davis, Lighting Designer Jess Klug, and Sound Designer Robert E. Gilmartin.

The setting reminds us this is an island with water flowing along the stage’s side but also a taverna when posts go down. White washed building sides surround audience and flowers above the stage that glow with lights when it’s the taverna set a Greek island vacation mood.

The show ends, not with just the actors taking a bow, but the popular ABBA songs written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus doing a bit of an encore as the cast point and hustle to disco beats on stage and in the aisles. (Additional material and arrangements are by Martin Koch.)