Say I Do to Mamma Mia at Arts Club

MammaMiaFrom the opening notes of the overture to the final sing-along curtain call, Mamma Mia now play at The Arts Club Theatre Company Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, will have you dancing in your seat.

The feel-good jukebox musical inspired by the hit music of Abba is composed by Abba’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus and written by Catherine Johnson with this production directed and choreographed by Valerie Easton.  Set Designer David Roberts’ beautiful set transports the audience to the beaches and tavernas on the fictional Greek Island of Kalokairi.

Mamma Mia opens as Sophie Sheridan (Michelle Bardach) prepares for her wedding to fiancé Sky.  Raised by single mother, innkeeper, Donna, Sophie seeks to know who her father is and discovering her mom’s diary she discovers three possible fathers.  Inviting all three, Sam, Bill and Harry, to her wedding unbeknownst to Donna, with none of them, other than Sophie, really sure why they are all on the island, all sorts of miscommunication comedy ensues.  Donna is supported by her two long time girlfriends and former girl-group bandmates, Rosie and Tanya.

Throughout the 2 hour musical the story of love, female empowerment, and friendship is perfectly woven into the familiar Abba songs.  Amongst the solid storytelling, some numbers are just for the sheer fun of it, enter Donna and the Dynamos who’s camp costumes takes the audience back to the heyday of the Swedish quartet.  The Dynamos, Rosie and Tanya, are played with just the right blend of slapstick and camp by Cathy Wilmot and Irene Karas Loeper (respectively), while Stephanie Roth brings a perfect balance of power and emotion to Donna’s vocals.  With Ms Bardach vocally matching Roth’s, the two leading ladies anchor Mamma Mia with the grace and strength.  Among the male leads Michael Torontow as Sam, stands out with a strong voice and leading man charisma.  Local theatre veterans, Warren Kimmel as Aussie Bill and Jay Hindle as Harry, while not carrying as much of a musical load, bring a nice blend of comedy and fatherly friendship to their roles, in spite of Hindle’s distractingly wavering British accent.

While there appeared to be a couple prop and wardrobe slips on opening night, not surprising in such a physically challenging song and dance production, the veteran cast improvised their recovery with seamless ease.  The overall spirit of Mamma Mia and the joyous Abba music is sure to win over even the hardest demeanour with smiles and laughs throughout the show, especially during the rousing encore as the company (and many audience members) reprise Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen and Waterloo.

Mamma Mia plays at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre until August 12th, with special sing-along performances on July 28th. Visit artsclub.com for showtimes and tickets.

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