The songs are still swirling through my brain the morning after seeing the delightful Mamma Mia! musical at the Coronado Playhouse. This is the first time that the Coronado Playhouse has performed this show and Co-Producer Chris Powell said that “This production has gone so smoothly, it’s ridiculous. Everyone gets along so well.” And it shows throughout the performance. This entire cast is exuberant and projects a good time.
The stage transports you to a Greek Taverna with the white and blue building, café tables with checkered cloths, shuttered windows and stairway, complete with a balcony. A medley of songs that is sure to get your toes tapping and keep you humming throughout introduces you to the show. The six-piece Mamma Mia! Band, led by award winning Music Director and pianist Kirk Valles, does an outstanding job performing the ABBA music.
Olivia Lucci plays Sophie perfectly as the demure, spunky lead with a standout melodic voice. Her bridesmaids, Lisa, played by Nicola Barrett and Ali, played by Alyssa Austin, are a fun and energetic duo, who have an especially enduring scene when Sophie reads her mom’s 1979 diary to find out who her dad is and they wonder what “…” means, to which Sophie replies, “That’s what they did in the old days.”
Fiancé Sky, played by Connor Boyd, is pleased to be returning to Coronado Playhouse, as are many of the other cast members. The three potential dad’s: Sam, played by Barron Henzel, the architect who scribbled plans for the taverna on a napkin 21 years ago; Harry, played by Thomas Fitzpatrick, the now gay banker and former head banger; and Bill the world traveler, played by Steven Jensen, all embrace their parts to a tee and are happy to each have a third of Sophie.
Donna, played convincingly by Chrissy Burns, will also direct Catch Me if You Can next season. Donna and her cohorts, Tanya, played with flirty suggestiveness by Dawn Marie Zuniga-Williams and Rosie, played endearingly by Heather Deerfield, are loads of fun. Tanya steals the show as a high maintenance gal who has led a jet setting life with millionaires. She and Pepper, played by Tyler Kirk, a suave worker who woos the ladies have a dalliance, which is showcased in the ”Does Your Mother Know” song. Kirk is a newcomer to Coronado Playhouse. Rosie takes an aggressive stance to get Bill to “Take a Chance on Me” and he finally comes around for the embrace just as the wedding is starting and they are asked to take a pew.
When Donna and the Dynamos make an appearance in “all their wrinkly glory” the night before the wedding, you are sure to laugh out loud. Their costumes are outrageously fun in a glittery array of color as they belt out “Super Trouper.” Another number that brought down the house was theme song “Mamma Mia,” when the ensemble opens the balcony doors to chime in on the chorus. The women’s and men’s ensemble do a wonderful job filling in in a variety of roles and dancing in the many excellently choreographed dance numbers. One of my favorite songs, “The Winner Takes it All,” was portrayed in a sad, yet powerful way by Donna. Sam and Donna also share great chemistry and harmony when they perform the “SOS” song.
In the end, it turns out the original wedding is cancelled, and a new one takes place with Donna and Sam in the nuptials. One of the humorous moments is when the audience chimes in “I do.” Just when you think it’s done; the irresistible energy continues with “Dancing Queen” as Donna and the Dynamos perform in ’70’s white glittery outfits. And then the true finale happens when the dads join in silver glittery costumes and the whole cast sings “Waterloo” with the audience joining in.
My friend Vicky had never been to the Coronado Playhouse and loved the intimate setting, which she felt made it easier to listen to the lyrics as the story unfolded, rather than a larger venue. This production is filled with endearing, comedic characters as the familiar tunes keep coming with original music and lyrics that are seared in your brain by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, the musical writing team and the “guy-half” of ABBA. I doubt ABBA could have ever imagined the cult following their music would achieve. This production is directed by returning Coronado Playhouse alum Jennie Gray Connard, who has worked in many capacities in San Diego theatres since childhood. She also assisted Marc Caro with choreography. This play was produced by Katy Skyrud and Chris Powell. Mamma Mia debuted on Broadway in 1999 and was so popular it ran for 16 years.
Coronado Playhouse is proud to be raising money and creating awareness for The Surfrider Foundation of San Diego during this run of Mamma Mia! Powell commented that the opening weekend was sold out and tickets are selling fast, so don’t wait to reserve your tickets for this entertaining experience that runs Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through December 15. Tickets range from $22 to $28 and are available through Coronado Playhouse’s Box Office at (619) 435-4856 or online at www.CoronadoPlayhouse.com. Active duty military, student, senior and group discounts are available. Coronado Playhouse is located at 1835 Strand Way, Coronado, next to City Hall.
Plan now to attend the upcoming 74th season of the Coronado Playhouse with classics and new shows like Matilda, The Tragedy of Richard III, James Bond, Moon Over Buffalo, Anything Goes, Catch Me if You Can, Closer than Ever, and one to be announced.