Scottfield Theater Company has a dream, a song to sing… and sing it they do! Running October 5-7 and 12-14 in the Cultural Center of Havre de Grace, this production of Mamma Mia is stuffed to the brim with infectious energy, uproarious laughter, and an impressive performance of pop monolith ABBA’s timeless catalog.
Mamma Mia tells the story of Sophie and Donna, a daughter and her single mother in their journey to discover who Sophie’s father was and face the memories Donna has of her three old flames and potential father for her daughter. While largely a vehicle for ABBA’s soundtrack, the plot is in the style of a classic comedy and largely easy to follow.
Avoiding the usual pitfalls of jukebox musicals, this cast and crew, under the direction of Allan Herlinger, puts on a show that both pays homage to ABBA’s beloved music and breathes new life into these familiar classics. Herlinger’s vast experience shines through as the cast executes to near perfection. Those familiar with the musical will be delighted and entertained by this cast’s brilliant comedic intuition, earnest presentation of character, and boundless energy. This energy in particular permeates everything the cast does, from the flawless performance of Becky Titelman’s exquisite choreography, to the whole-hearted effort given to the often-neglected harmony lines. Special kudos are in order to Music Director Rachel Sandler and assistant Chris Pinder for their attention to detail in each of the vocal lines and the precision required for a cast of this size to sing along to pre-recorded music.
Aesthetically, Scottfield wisely and tastefully dresses both cast and set, allowing both to seem natural and complimentary to the cast. Costume Designer Gay Lynn Price is to be commended for dressing her cast in costumes that are functional in this dance-heavy show without sacrificing form or fashion. While uncredited in the program, Scottfield made a point to acknowledge the additional work of April Burrill, who designed and constructed 3 matched sets of disco-era jumpsuits for the final curtain that must be seen to be believed. In terms of set design, Chuck Bowden chooses to limit the number of moving parts and leave as much open space as possible in the intimate setting provided, to the show’s great benefit. William Price then expertly lights the set in colors that instantly convey all the information the audience needs to turn back to this brilliant cast.
Sound Design by Dickson Teel was adequate, but at times jarring as balance and feedback issues plagued the show this reviewer attended. The recorded music could stand to be turned down slightly, as clearly neither the audience or the cast had any trouble hearing it and it occasionally overpowered the singers entirely. That being said, this reviewer attended an opening night performance, so hopefully these will be resolved in future performances. Redeeming this was Sound Engineer Niki Tart, who executed flawlessly all night and adapted to the unexpected feedback with speed and skill. All in all, the technical and production staff brilliantly set the stage and allowed their cast to do what they do best: Perform. And Perform they do.
Katie Gordon pulls out all the stops in her portrayal of Donna, the free-spirited woman-turned taverna owner and single mother. Every time Gordon appears on stage, she puts forth maximum effort, and to great effect. Her singing, her dancing, and her acting are all fully realized and wonderfully executed. Not to be forgotten, Donna’s two best friends and former band-mates Rosie and Tanya are an absolute riot. Rosie, played by Elizabeth Marion, oozes confidence and appeal and looks to be having the time of her life. Tanya, portrayed by Mary Guay Kramer, is equally entertaining. both actresses play off each other and feed each other’s comedy, keeping the audience in stitches throughout.
In the hands of High School Junior Mary Cate Carder, the main ingénue of Sophie is the perfect balance of girl-on-the-verge-of-womanhood and fun-loving teenager. With an unassuming and earnest voice, Ms. Carder is instantly likable and relatable, especially when paired with Christina Foye (Ali) and Breonna Lewis (Lisa), portraying Sophie’s best friends and confidants, who are delightfully funny and fully realized.
Sophie’s intended, Sky, is portrayed by Jess Hutchinson. He brings a masterful physical comedy in the appropriate moments, though often leaves the audience wishing for a more dynamic performance, as his delivery of dialogue is consistently wooden and limited in its emotional range. Counterbalancing this, Sky’s friends Pepper (Eric Bray Jr.) and Eddie (Patrick Yarrington) are uproariously funny. Several moments in “Lay All Your Love On Me” had the audience roaring with laughter, thanks in large part to the commitment of these two to their roles.
Playing the roles of each of Sophie’s three potential father figures, Sam Carmichael (Brian Ruff), Bill Austin (Scott Kukuck), and Harry Bright (Joseph Murphy), each bring their characters to life with skill and charm. Ruff brings a Philip Quast-like sound and mannerism to his performance of the earnest architect Sam that was delightful to behold. Likewise is Joseph Murphy’s portrayal of Harry Bright, the bright-eyed investment banker. Murphy is clearly having fun every second he’s on stage, and makes the most of every opportunity he has. Not to be outdone, Scott Kukuck’s turn at writer Bill Austin is endearing and authentic. All three gentlemen shine in their given moments of comedy and vulnerability.
This production is absolutely not to be missed. Fans, newcomers, and even the occasional skeptic will be delighted and entertained by this brilliant production.
Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission
Mamma Mia plays through October 14, 2018 at Scottfield Theatre Company as guests of The Historic Havre de Grace Opera House— 121 N. Union Street in historic downtown Havre de Grace, MD. For tickets call the box office at 667-225-8433 or purchase them online.