By JEAN LOWERISON | Uptown News
If you’re in the mood for a mini-vacation on a small, sunny Greek isle, brush up on your favorite ABBA tunes and grab a ticket to Coronado Playhouse’s joyous, tuneful version of “Mamma Mia!”
Playing through Dec. 15 and wonderfully cast (often against type) by director Jennie Gray Connard, this show will have you humming along and wanting to dance as you watch the wedding preparations for 20-year-old Sophie (Olivia Lucci), daughter of Donna (Chrissy Burns), and groom-to-be Sky (Connor Boyd).
Donna, who seems to have had a colorful past, owns a successful hotel/taverna on the island. The place was designed by one brief lover named Sam, an architect who in fact designed Donna’s island digs. He’s also the one she wanted to marry, but he had the effrontery to go off and marry someone else instead.
At more or less the same time, Donna was playing around with a British banker named Harry and a writer named Bill.
Sophie wants her dad to walk her down the aisle. The problem is that no one, including Donna, knows which of the above-mentioned trio is Sophie’s father. So the bride-to-be invited all three (in Donna’s name) — without telling her. Sam is played by Barron Henzel; Harry by Thomas Fitzpatrick; and Bill by Steven Jensen. All are pitch-perfect.
Also along for the ride are Donna’s old band buddies Tanya (Dawn Marie Zuniga-Williams) and Rosie (Heather Deerfield). Back in those distant high school days, they were known as Donna and the Dynamos. Tanya has since married rich and dresses accordingly. Rosie has stayed single, but she’s getting to the point where hooking up sounds like a good idea.
Hooking up is part of what this show is about. There are lots of possibilities here, but the unexpected one (and my favorite) is Pepper (Tyler Kirk), who works at the taverna. He’s young, tall and ripped, knows it, and decides to throw himself at middle-aged redhead Tanya, who sings a great song called “Does Your Mother Know?” He’s a stitch.
And oh yes, the Dynamos get together again for a few well-chosen songs. Mostly, in fact, this show is about those toe-tapping ABBA ditties, which require at least eight good singers. Coronado’s got ‘em, along with a boffo six-man band led by Kirk Valles, and three extra “pit singers.”
Bravo to director Connard for against-type casting here. These folks don’t all look like Meryl Streep or Pierce Brosnan, but that only makes their characters more real and much more relatable.
Connard also tosses in amusing blocking touches. The serviceable, easily reconfigurable dual-level set (by Shaun Tuazon-Martin) has one large upstairs door and one smaller, closet door used to good effect when chorus chime-ins are required. I’ll leave you to find out what I’m talking about.
Bravo to Marcene Drysdale and the rest of the design team for the terrific costumes. Arly Christiaan Stroben’s design of those flashy skin-tight numbers for Donna and the Dynamos was of particular note. And to lighting designers designers Josh Olmstead and Anthony Zelig and sound designer Jack Connard.
Love, lost and found on a Greek island. What a great idea for a musical. Maybe that’s why “Mamma Mia!” ran 14 years on Broadway. Here’s your chance to see a particularly fine production of this delightful show.
— Jean Lowerison is a long-standing member of the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.