Thursday, May 31, 2018

Review: MAMMA MIA at the Walnut Street Theatre to July 22nd


We had a great turnout for our fanclub meeting in Philly.  It was fun seeing the show together and visiting with Eric there and afterward at the stage door.  My review of the show follows:
"There are different reasons people love to go to the theater. It can be thought provoking, inspiring, sobering. Most of all, especially in today's times, what we need is lighthearted entertainment, taking us from the problems of our daily lives and putting a smile on our face. Walnut Street's production of Mamma Mia fills the bill perfectly. I've seen the show four times and am still happy and engaged each time. The nature of most of ABBA's songs exude energy and joy. They've been on the radio for so many years but after seeing this show I hear the songs completely differently, in the context of the story that was created around their music. In fact, I can't get them off my mind as they pop up in my mind at random moments, weeks later.
Casting of each character was perfect. Greek taverna owner Donna, (Ann Brummel) as Sophie's mother, has a voice perfectly suited to their music. Her powerhouse song, 
"The Winner Takes it All" brings down the house every night. Laura Giknis as daughter Sophie,exhibits youthful enthusiasm and innocence as she mails letters to her three potential fathers, inviting them to her wedding without her mother's knowledge. When the fathers arrive, they are worlds apart from one another in looks and personality. Christopher Sutton is Bill Austin, a macho Aussie world traveler and author and confirmed bachelor with a terrific Australian accent. He fooled me. When I asked him later I found out he actually is from Michigan, not too far from were I live. Jonas Cohen is Harry Bright, a former head-banger rock guitarist turned banker in a three piece suit, who has a secret not revealed until the end of the show. They are the comic relief while Sam Carmichael, (portrayed by an extremely handsome Eric Kunze) is an architect who is still in love with Donna. The way Eric dramatically interprets "Knowing Me, Knowing You" made me hear the song in a whole new light. It was one of the emotional scenes in an otherwise fun, whimsical show, the other being when Sophie and her mother sing the very moving "Slipping Through My Fingers." Twice I attended with friends who had a grown daughters and both women couldn't contain their tears. In fact, I was sitting close enough to see real tears on the face of Laura Giknis.
Hilarity ensues as Sophie tries to keep her secret as to why these men are here from Donna and none of them realize they are Sophie's potentially real father. There were so many scenes that elicited uproarious laughter from the audience, a highlight being a snorkel and flipper dance routine that had people applauding long before it was over. A close second is between Charis Leos (Rosie) and Christopher Sutton (Bill), as she attempts to and is successful in seducing him before the wedding in "Take a Chance on Me". Once again, uproarious laughter from the audience. Finally, Lyn Philistine as the Tanya is amazing as the sexy cougar who has been married and divorce three time and has clearly had extensive plastic surgery. Meeting her after the show, she was unrecognizable young and looked completely different. She is married to Christopher Sutton (Bill) and they often do shows together.
Kudos to the entire cast, including the chorus who sing throughout, the excellent dancers, the directing and production team as well as the musicians, who perfectly recreate the music we have grown to love. Taking a line from the show, 'Thank you for the music!'  "


Get tickets for Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia, here.


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