ARTS & minds

On opening night last Sunday, the cast seemed to still find their way into a polished ensemble with the men emerging as the star dancers and the women as dominating vocals.

The story unfolds on a small Mediteranean island where Donna Sheridan (MaryAnn Carlisle)  an American expat is working hard to keep her Summer Night City Taverna open to a trickle of tourists while coralling her rumbuntious young help, including Sophie, her daughter. Raised by Donna, a single mother and former lead singer of a girl band, she has tried to unravel a secret: Who’s her daddy?

 Let’s also not forget the dancers: Pirouetting in diving fins? Bring out the drumrolls and the applause.

Kudos also to director/choreographer Karen Babcock Brassea. The closing dance number inspired audience members to join in and the constumes by P&G Designs are as over the top as the epoch that “Mamma Mia” was written in.  

Intermission scuttlebutt suggested that Sášik came off a bit flat vocally and as a character. But again, this just having been the opening night, performers will have plenty of time to finesse their roles. The show runs through August 4.

That puts mama Donna into a different light than her more conservative daughter but, given the times then and now, no-one bats an eye—and for a while it looks as if the bubbly bride might as well have three fathers. They appear up to the role except one still somewhat on the fence about the deal.How the story ultimately unfolds and who finds love with whom shall remain a surprise here.

The action moves along nicely when Donna’s former bandmates arrive. Dwan Hayes stands out as Rosie Mulligan, flaunting both her figure and her pipes to full effect as does Sophia Swannell as a young man’s sexy fantasy of an “older woman.” Carlisle seems a bit subdued in the first act but comes into full bloom in the second. Among her suitors, Daniel Berlin as Harry Bright, the banker had me rooting for him. Looking like a stereotypical banker and on the corpulent side, one could still picture him as half of a couple madly in love in Paris. Daryl J. Roth credibly embodies Bill Austin, the writer who, all stereotypes of the breed not withstanding, appears to have taken a vow of celibacy. But then…well, you’ll see. Then there is Sam Carmichael (Jonathan Van Dyke), the architect who is still in love with the island, the Taverna and with Donna. Persistent and slightly obnoxious but oddly lovable, he ends gets his way.

“Mamma Mia:” A Playful Romp for Dancin’ Feet at the Playhouse. 

 By Daniella B. Walsh

photography: Ed Krieger

            Ah, just in time for the mellow days of summer, the Laguna Playhouse brings us “Mamma Mia” an often performed musical that also became a movie starring Meryl Streep and Cher, among other luminaries.

The plot revolves around a young couple, Sophie (McKenna Wells) and Sky (David Sášik), about to be married. Both appear somewhat young to be getting married, Sophie is only 20, but that adds to the fun since her vivacious bridesmaids and his nimble-footed groomsmen sing and dance their way into the audience’s hearts and heads.

Abba’s hits like “Dancing Queen,” “Take a Chance” and “SOS,” among others had everyone tapping their feet.

The story begins with Sophie sending off wedding inviations to three men, one of whom, she hopes, will reveal himself as her father.

Quaintly, for us techno-jaded viewers, she sends three letters all of which apparently reach their intended recipients. The day before the nuptials three gentlemen, an architect, a banker and a writer show up and the wily Sophie is trying to get each one of them to walk her down the isle in the hope that he will reveal himself as dad. How and why she picked the three particular men will not be revealed here.