PLAY REVIEW: 'Mamma Mia!' here we go again ... and go again

Dean Poling | The Valdosta Daily TimesDonna (played by Kelly Fletcher) believes this 'this must be a dream' as she is unexpectedly reunited with three men from her past — Sam, Harry and Bill (Jim Ballard, Olin Davidson and Joe Mason) — in the Peach State Summer Theatre production of 'Mamma Mia!'

PLAY REVIEW

VALDOSTA – Singing along to a live performance of a musical is bad form.

You shouldn't do it. 

People pay to hear the performers on stage sing the songs. People don't want to hear an audience member singing along behind them. 

No matter how lovely you think your voice may be, people will talk about you. And people are not saying nice things.

That said, even the most stone-faced audience member may have difficulty not singing along, or at least humming along, to Peach State Summer Theatre's "Mamma Mia!"

The ABBA-fueled soundtrack almost dares audiences to sing along. PSST! is so aware of this possibility, the musical theatre organization has scheduled a July 3 sing-along performance where the audience is invited to and even encouraged to sing along.

Until then, do your best not to sing along. There's plenty of talent on stage.

From the supporting cast providing almost continuous backup vocals on stage and back stage to the main players, "Mamma Mia!" is a big song show.

Hank Rion, show director, lets the songs breathe as big production numbers to more intimate conversations between a couple of cast members.

Yet, he keeps the tempo snapping. Under Rion's direction, the show never lags, the energy remains high throughout the entire performance, but he knows how to pause like a well-trained runner pacing himself for the next big burst of go.

Choreographer Sarah Wildes Arnett finds a similar rhythm with dances that are imaginative, invigorating, humorous and breathtaking. 

They are backed by tremendous creative minds from the beautiful Greek island set designs of Ruth A. Brandvik to the mood-seducing lighting of Genny Wynn to the colorful costume designs of Martha H. Cooper to the marvelous cinematic projections of Jason Lee Courson to the blend of textured sounds by Zach Cramer to the technical direction of Phillip Brulotte to keeping the trains running smoothly of Joseph Borkovich's stage management to Joe Mason's vocal direction to the wonderful live orchestra conducted by David Springfield.

To the wonderful voices and personalities on stage.

The cast brings so many wonderful moments to life with "Mamma Mia!"

The supporting cast has many moments to shine with their harmonies and dancing – even performing one hilarious dance wearing swim fins. The supporting cast is something akin to a conglomerated character of its own. These performers are the rhythm running throughout the current of the show.

Jim Ballard, Joe Mason and Olin Davidson are fun as Sam, Bill and Harry, one of whom is likely the father of Sophie, the daughter of their former love Donna. Sophie invites them to the island for her wedding and hopefully to finally learn the identity of her father. Ballard, Mason and Davidson find a rapport that's a mix of the Three Musketeers and the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion.

Kelly Fletcher, Anne Marie Snyder and Kirbi Mason find a similar rapport as old friends Donna, Tanya and Rosie. The friends once performed as Donna and the Dynamos and the actresses bring what feels like years of friendship to the stage, along with great voices.

Haley Aguero is a gem as the daughter Sophie looking forward to a wedding, looking after her mom and looking for her dad. Aguero has a beautiful voice that leads several songs throughout the production.  

Watch for Kirbi Mason and Joe Mason as Rosie and Bill finding each other before the wedding to the song "Take a Chance on Me."

And Kelly Fletcher playing Donna with her show-stopping performance of "The Winner Takes It All." Fletcher is a marvel throughout the show, with a voice that can soar to operatic heights or roar with rock power.

So, with exception of the July 3 singalong, let Fletcher and the rest sing ... as hard as it may be. Oh, well, at least, we can tap our feet ... but no tap shoes, please.

The review is based on the Friday, June 7, opening night performance. NOTE: The opening weekend performances were sold out and show tickets are reportedly going fast for upcoming performances.

"Mamma Mia" continues 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 15, and 3 p.m. Sunday, June 16, with additional performance dates through July 21, Sawyer Theatre, Valdosta State University Fine Arts Building, corner of Oak and Brookwood. More information: Visit www.valdosta.edu/psst or call the box office, (229) 259-7770, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays.

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