In mid-April, the local Cache Theatre Company conspired to steal a bit of the thunder of the 2019 summer theater season with its production of the jukebox musical “Mama Mia.” The Lyric Repertory Company is slated to debut the same show in June, but CTC beat them to the punch.
One can hardly blame the community thespians for poaching the musical featuring the hits of the 1970s pop group ABBA. The stars just seemed to be aligned for “Mama Mia” right now. The rights to the show had recently been released for amateur productions; a sequel to the 2008 movie version of the musical is now playing heavily on cable television; and CTC had the perfect venue at the Ellen Eccles Theatre and the promise of an enthusiastic cast waiting in the wings.
Director Lindsey Kelstrom not only recognized those circumstances, but also skillfully capitalized on them to deliver a crowd-pleasing, high-energy show.
The cast of “Mama Mia” was led by three powerhouse females, They were Sebrina Woodland as Donna, a pop singer turned single mother with a secret to protect; Danielle Cassity as Sophia, a bride-to-be determined to unravel the mystery of her parenthood; and Sandi Gillam as Tanya, a wealthy divorcee considering a new romantic career as a cougar. The trio are gifted actresses, talented singers and were committed enough to their roles to makes the audience care about the musical’s far-fetched plot.
Despite all the estrogen dominating the atmosphere of “Mama Mia,” the show’s male leads – Chris Metz, John Brailsford and Ryan Leonhardt – were equally entertaining. That was especially true when Leonhardt and Ms. Woodland teamed up for a dramatic duet of the ABBA hit “S.O.S.” that was one of the show’s highlights.
Naturally, ABBA ‘s blend of euro-pop and disco music lent itself most easily to the production numbers in “Mama Mia” and the show’s huge ensemble chorus tackled those song-and-dance scenes with free-spirited gusto.
In fact, the only valid criticism of this excellent production might be that both cast and ensemble members occasionally looked painfully self-conscious while performing choreography that might not have been adequately rehearsed.
With the quality bar for this show now set quite high with local audiences, it will be interesting to see what the Lyric Repertory Company will do with “Mama Mia” when the ball is in their court a couple of weeks from now.