Summer Repertory Theatre returned Fri., June 21, from a year’s hiatus with an unforgettable show, “Mamma Mia!” staged in Summer Rep Pavilion. The perfect celebratory production filled with familiar songs from ABBA, exuberant dancing and a bizarre but plausible storyline search for a father left the audience no time for reflection.
The SRT Performance Pavilion, recently erected on a former tennis court site, capacity under three hundred, brought the show close to everyone in the audience as it relied on a theater in the round setting. Each set of the four audience areas only went five rows deep. Large white globes illuminated the theater and hanging on the walls to be bunches of billowy Mediterranean shirts. The stage floor circled with a blue tile pattern.
A simple but suggestive set developed by Sarah Beth Hall created the sense of a small Greek island. Lighting Designer Joseph Beumer’s effective scheme supplemented the scenery throughout the show. Elizabeth Davis’ costume designs completed the illusion of a party island.
Eddie (Nic Hermick) and Pepper (Charles Mayhew Miller) set the tone for fun, laughs and antics even before the show began as they casually reminded the audience to silence phones and resist taking photos. From that moment the laughter began, it only ceased for just a few poignant moments between mother and daughter or possible fathers and daughter.
Music and excitement, movement and happiness quickly washed away those slow saccharine scenes. The unusual father quest sought by Sophie (Macy McKown) rushed through the story with the lively, fast-paced tunes such as “Honey, Honey” and “The Name of the Game.”
Sophie’s mother Donna (Abby Cramer) reflected on her young life and justified her generational choices, especially in song with “Money, Money, Money,” “Dancing Queen” and “Super Trouper.” Her pace slows in Act II as Donna comes to turns with her present life dealing with a 20-year-old daughter on the brink of matrimony shown through musical reflection in “Slipping Through My Fingers” and “The Winner Takes It All.” Twist and climax culminate in with Donna and Sam in “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do!”
One subplot finds completion in the song featuring Bill (CJ Carbin) and Rosie (Sommer O’Donnell) that actually seems appropriate for all of the forming couples in the story, “Take a Chance on Me.” Harry (Cole Harksen) and Tanya (Ariana Perlson) serve as fun foils and balance the pairs in a very modern manner.
All of the action builds to one fun encore with two songs reprised, “Mamma Mia!” and “Dancing Queen” and ends with the entire company participating in “Waterloo” while the audience waves glow sticks.
Director Johanna Pinzler pulls all together with the help of Music Director Jane Best and Choreographer Eric Sciotto. Supported by a seven-piece orchestra, “Mamma Mia!” was the perfect choice to bring back Summer Rep. Opening night thrilled an audience that could not help mouthing, and often singing allowed, the lyrics and toe tapping and swaying in their seats. “Mamma Mia!” not only opened the summer season but it will close it Aug. 10. Order tickets by phone at 707-527-4307 or going online: www.SummerRep.com.