If the audience reaction to Sunday’s matinee of the ABBA musical Mamma Mia! at Cap Rep is any indication, the show will do very well for the company – the almost completely full house was very vocal in their enjoyment of the production. It’s a very easy show to get behind. It asks nothing from its viewers but to turn off your brain and take it in; it’s pure sugar-candy fluff nostalgia, romantic escapism set in a sultry foreign climate.
Sophie (Christina Carlucci) is getting married to Sky (Patton Chandler) and the one thing she wants on her special day is for her father to walk her down the aisle; the only problem is that her mother Donna (Lyn Philistine), who raised Sophie alone on a Mediterranean island resort, won’t tell her who he is. Sophie finds Donna’s journal from the summer Sophie was conceived and three likely candidates for fatherhood emerge – Harry, Bill and Sam (Gary Lindemann, Brian Cali and Gil Brady.) Sophie invites the three to her wedding without her mother’s knowledge and hopes their arrival will answer the question she’s been asking her whole life – but she doesn’t realize the turmoil she’s about to introduce into both her, and her mother’s, life.
Philistine, as Donna, stole the show – her voice was amazing, both in solos and when singing with others, and her characterization of a woman proud of the life she’s lived, yet always wondering what might have been, was strong and well-defined. Her vocals on “The Winner Takes It All” and “One of Us” gave me goosebumps. Brady, as Sam, the “one that got away,” was a heartbreaker – strong and controlled, a man sure what he wanted and what he needed to do to get it. Carlucci had a beautiful voice, but was a bit too over-the-top acting-wise as Sophie; I felt the same way about Kara Mikula as Donna’s friend Rosie, whose Melissa McCarthy-esque schtick became tiresome quickly. However, if you’re going to mug to the audience, this is, apparently, the show in which to do it; no matter what happened on stage, it was received with laughter, applause and catcalls.
Freddy Ramirez’s choreography shone; it was crisp, without a single misstep. Special kudos to Harris Turner, whose moves in “Does Your Mother Know” got some of the best audience response of the afternoon. Brian Prather’s set design was spare and functional; it made for quick, efficient set changes with everything tucked away neatly and easily.
It’s the summer, and people enjoy light, simple things when the weather’s warm: cold drinks, sundresses, air conditioning, salads, nothing too taxing. Mamma Mia! fits the bill: it’s as comfortable as a pair of old shoes, beautiful to look at, romantic, and filled with music you remember fondly: “Dancing Queen,” “Take a Chance on Me,” “Chiquitita,” “I Have a Dream.” By the curtain call, people were up dancing in the aisles – and if that isn’t a recommendation for the show, I don’t know what is.
“Mamma Mia!,” Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl St., Albany, through August 13, $80 – $16, Run time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 15-minute intermission, www.capitalrep.org