Theater Review by Howard Steven Frydman
Production: Mamma Mia
Theater: Connecticut Repertory Theater
Music/Lyrics: Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus
Book. Catherine Johnson
Director: Terrance Mann
Yabba ABBA Doo!!!
“Mamma Mia – The Musical”- featuring oh-so tender and sentimental songs by the ‘70’s Swedish pop group “ABBA”, is currently in production at the Connecticut Repertory Theater’s (CRT) Nutmeg Summer Series under the direction of three-time Tony nominee Terrance Mann. Believe you me – “Mamma Mia” – where friends and lovers abound is an endearing, cry a minute now, laugh a bit later, sing it out loud far and near- and as stated it’s a “Yabba ABBA Dabba Doo” Good time from one end of the theater to the other!!
Legendary Director/Actor Terrance Mann, who has been associated with CRT as both actor and director since 2011, is now in his third year as Artistic Director, and believe you me we are so glad he is back here in Connecticut sharing his theatrical artistry. During my most recent visit, let me plainly state there is something miraculous going on here in the CRT Theater during this production of “Mamma Mia” and it is joyously attributed to the stellar direction of Mann, a glorious group of actors, and a creative team including “jump up from your seat” choreography by Mary Ann Lamb and Jessica Walker, Scenic design by Tim Brown, and ultra chic costume designs by the fabulous Miss Fan Zheng.
“Mamma Mia, The Musical” opened in the West End at the Prince Edward Theater before transitioning to Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre and is the ninth-longest-running Broadway show of all time with 5,758 performances. The plot – think “Definitely Maybe” (starring Ryan Reynolds) or TV sitcom, “How I Met Your Mother”, – “The McGuffin” – who’s my real dad/mom? The location- a beautiful small Greek Isle of love.
Here we are introduced to the recently engaged Sophie (Kelly McCarty) and her beloved Sky (Mason Reeves). Sophie dreams of a perfect wedding including walking down the aisle with her father by her side – but alas she does not know who her real father may be. Seeking info she sneaks a peek at her mom’s diary, with clues that her dad may be one of three former loves, Harry, (Rob Barnes) Bill, (Jamie Colburn) or Sam, (Bradley Dean) and forging her mom’s name, Donna (Jessica Hendy) she invites all three to the wedding-oy!- that’s Chutzpah! Along the way we are introduced to wedding guests including Donna’s “all for one gal-pals”- Rosie (Jennifer Cody) and Tanya (Lauren Blackman), members of her former singing group- “Donna and the Dynamos”.
Let me tell you- throughout the production, theatergoers are so taken with what they are seeing on stage, they are literally dancing in the aisles, singing along, laughing, crying, and just having a case of the “Y.A.D.D.’s”. I take note of a somewhat older couple in the row in front, who not only are they holding hands, silently singing along, but as they recognize various ABBA songs including, “I Heard A Dream”, “Money, Money, Money”, “Dance Queen”, “Does Your Mother Know”, “Take A Chance On Me”, “Waterloo” and of course “Mamma Mia”, they look romantically at each other, and sneak a kiss- this Music, this Musical, this band ABBA – has certainly struck a heartfelt emotional reaction that is simply – Yabba ABBA Dabba DOO!
We kindly send kudos to our “oh so” energetic cast and ensemble, including our lead Jessica Hendy as Donna – an exceptional voice and performance, our “Sophie” – Kelly McCarty – she provides an inviting, natural acting style. We happily take note of Mason Reeves rendition of “Lay All Your Love On Me”- oh so exhausting dance choreography but a certain crowd pleaser.
I humbly send a coveted “Rose d’excellence” to Miss Jennifer Cody as “Rosie”. Jennifer – we do have to single you out as a scene stealer whenever you appear on stage and we loved it! With her deliciously enticing smile – all eyes are on this actor – Jennifer Cody is indeed a DY-NA-MO.
Lastly we present the coveted “Howard Noticed You Award” to Miss Torrie D’Alessandro as “Ali”-we so enjoyed your high spirited performance, you added so much to this show. Plain and simply Mann’s current production is a sure fire crowd pleaser and a not to be missed musical event. Enjoy!
This production will take place at the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theater located on the campus of the University of Connecticut. CRT is the professional producing arm of the Department of Dramatic Arts at the University of Connecticut- Storrs, CT. For ticket information or to purchase tickets by phone: 860-486-2113 or visit online at www.crt.uconn.edu.
Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at TheHoward24@gmail.com.