Gateway’s Mamma Mia has arrived at the Patchogue Theatre and it will give you all the feels. Mamma Mia is full of love, laughter and a storyline written around the popular songs of ABBA. It’s a high-energy, colorful and comedic romp that will have you laughing out loud and singing and dancing along.
The music of ABBA is known and loved by millions, so it’s no wonder Mama Mia is one of the most successful musicals of all time, having played 5,773 shows over 14 years on Broadway by the time it closed in September 2015. Directed by Larry Raben with choreography by Richard Hinds, Gateway’s Mamma Mia stays true to the original, and the exceptional cast brings the story roaring to life.
Mamma Mia takes place on the Greek island of Kalokairi, where a wedding is set to take place between Sophie (Briana Rapa) and Sky (Mike Heslin). But one thing bothers Sophie—she doesn’t know who her father is. She has discovered her mother, Donna’s, diary and realizes her father could be one of three men from her mother’s past: Harry Bright, Bill Austin or Sam Carmichael. Sophie has secretly sent all three invitations to the wedding, in the hopes that once she meets them, she will instantly know who her father is.
Donna (Joan Hess) values three things: her daughter, her hotel business on the secluded Greek island and her independence, all of which she desperately holds onto as her only child, Sophie, plans to marry at the tender age of 20. Hess’s portrayal of Donna is flawless. She embraces the softer, more vulnerable side of Donna between flashes of temper when she realizes that three of her former lovers—one of which is Sophie’s father—have shown up the day before the wedding. The namesake number “Mamma Mia” is a jaw dropper—this reviewer never wanted it to end.
Donna’s two longtime best friends have also arrived for the wedding. Tanya (Angie Achworer) and Rosie (Kate Chapman) are forces to be reckoned with and they try to cheer Donna up by reminding her of her younger days as the lead singer of Donna and the Dynamos. When “Dancing Queen” began we felt the vibration of theater-goers tapping their feet while bopping their heads, as Donna and the Dynamos slayed the number. The trio of Hess, Achworer and Chapman have undeniable chemistry. Their performance of “Super Trooper” is loud, colorful and full of life.
Donna’s three ex-lover’s Harry Bright (David Engel), Bill Austin (Fred Inkley) and Sam Carmichael (Patrick Cassidy) agree to keep Sophie’s secret, but are then faced with Donna’s wrath. Cassidy brings a quiet strength to the character of Sam, who is hopelessly in love with the feisty Donna he fell in love with 20 years ago. The men quickly surmise that Sophie didn’t invite them just so her mom could see some old friends. All three believe themselves to be Sophie’s dad and all three offer to walk her down the aisle!
Mama Mia will have you riveted and the music will take you on an emotional journey throughout the performance. Donna’s heartfelt ballad, “Slipping Through My Fingers,” is lovely and sad, as she realizes her daughter is a grown woman. What a tearjerker! The love between mother and daughter is powerful, beautiful and everlasting.
Tanya’s playful and sexy number, “Does Your Mother Know,” is raunchy good fun! Rosie and Bill’s duet, “Take A Chance on Me,” is easily a favorite, eliciting belly laughs and cat calls from the audience as Kate Chapman pulls off the scene with comedic grace.
Donna and Sam’s duet, “S.O.S,” is heartbreaking, and our leading couple makes us feel the pain their long separation has wrought. Cassidy plays the perfect Sam—a man with regrets who now knows what he wants in life, with this fiery redhead by his side on a Greek island he considers paradise—and to have Sophie for a daughter would be the cherry on top.
So, who walks Sophie down the aisle in the end? Do Donna and Sam get back together? You’ll just have to go and find out!
Gateway’s Mama Mia plays at Gateway Theatre, 71 East Main Street, Patchogue, through August 5. Visit thegateway.org for tickets and info.