Mamma Mia, Here I Go Again
By JD Dotson
It is, simply put, impossible to resist Derby Dinner Playhouse’s production of Mamma Mia, the 1999 hit musical set to the songs of ABBA. Everything about this production, including dinner, was perfection.
My husband and I started out with dinner – buffet style – and the salad bar. I felt it was my duty to try everything for the sake of being really thorough. My spinach salad was fresh and delicious, the salad bar was loaded with toppings as well as broccoli and tomato/cucumber salads. I have a strict rule to not fill up on salad when a buffet is involved but made an exception for the sake of journalism. The buffet was equally delightful on my second trip to it as it was on my first. Fried chicken, pasta, carved turkey, broccoli and rice and a baked potato, I worried that eating a huge meal like this would lull me to sleep. Mamma Mia is a musical that promises falling asleep is impossible. Also, we had dessert or pecan pie and hummingbird cake in our future during intermission.
It is fascinating how the songs of the Swedish pop band from the seventies combine together to tell a cohesive story. Mamma Mia tells the tale of the upcoming wedding of Sophie and Sky (Kayla Eilers and Nate Willey) on a tropical Greek Isle. Sophie’s mother, Donna (Jillian Prefach) runs the Taverna Resort, building the resort from the ground up while being a single mother. After finding Donna’s diary, Sophie invites three potential fathers, men from Donna’s past, to her wedding, unbeknownst to Donna.
In addition to American architect Sam (Stuart May), British banker Harry (Bobby Conte) and Australian adventurer Bill (Matthew Brennan), the wedding guests include Sky’s buddies/resort employees, Sophie’s girlfriends, and Donna’s best friends and former backup singers, the Dynamos: wealthy divorcee Tanya (Mandi Elkins Hutchins) and single, carefree Rosie (Elizabeth Loos). The men, all former lovers of Donna, were all under the impression they were the actual father of Sophie. Single Phil, former wildman turned banker Harry, and Donna’s true love Sam wove their stories and their loves through the songs of ABBA.
Being a longtime fan of ABBA, it was hard not to want to sing along and dance, but I wouldn’t want to take anything away from these amazing performances. Each actor did a great service to my memories of the band with wonderful voices. Sophie and Sky were perfectly cast, young, attractive kids in love and spent the pre-wedding nights in bachelor/bachelorette island partying amidst Sophie fretting about which invited guest was her father. The friends and islanders were such good energy, flipping and dancing all over the stage, popping in and out of windows set around the theatre and generally acting like young people celebrating upcoming nuptials, it was hard not to smile and sing along. Part of the magic of Derby Dinner Playhouse and theater in the round is the action is happening all around us, stage entrances and exits and every seat is a good seat in this theater. Derby Dinner does a phenomenal job of remembering where their audience is and playing to everyone. All of these performances were spot on, wonderfully acted, the choreography and stage direction were wonderful.
The main gist of the story is about the young kids getting married and finding out which man is giving the bride away. However, the scene stealing trio, the original Girl Power Group of Donna and the Dynamos, chewed up every scene they were in together. Donna, Tanya and Rosie had such great chemistry and comedic timing together, you really were transported to that Greek Isle and easily believed these women were the best of friends and realize the story is about much more.
I’ll refrain from sharing any spoilers, but I will say after everyone has taken their final bows and disappeared off the stage, the audience is given an enjoyable, unexpected surprise.
Whether you’ve never seen it or have watched the show in various forms a zillion times, you haven’t seen it like Derby Dinner does it.
Mama Mia runs through April 8. For show times and ticket information visit: https://derbydinner.com/show/mamma-mia/
Derby Dinner Playhouse
525 Marriott Drive