“Mamma Mia!” – Phoenix Theatre



Mainstage Theatre, Phoenix Theatre

Phoenix, AZ

Nothing profound happens in “Mamma Mia!,” the splashy musical that weaves hit ABBA tunes around a simple story set on a remote Greek island where Donna owns and runs a taverna where locals and guests have a ball.  But there’s nothing wrong with spirited entertainment which is exactly what the stellar Phoenix Theatre production delivers.

As the story unfolds, Donna’s daughter, Sophie, discovers her unmarried mother spent the summer of her conception romantically involved with three different men who visited the island.  Unbeknownst to Donna, Sophie invited them to the island to celebrate her marriage to Sky, a local beach person.  Sophie hopes to discover who her father is so he can give her away as she puts her life together.

Sophie’s father is never revealed although it appears that Sam is probably the person since Harry prefers other men and Bill flits from damsel to damsel.  The show’s conclusion decides that all three may have each played a part in Sophie’s creation.

Two of Donna’s cronies, Rosie and Tanya, show-up to bring back the carefree days of trio’s youth.  All the jazzy and tuneful ABBA song hits make for lively partying as exemplified in Brant Michaels’ splashy dances.

Like most Phoenix Theatre productions, “Mamma Mia!” looks and sounds like a Broadway staging.  There’s little new or unusual in Robert Kolby Harper’s show and the simple dances allow the story to play out exuberantly, ”Mamma Mia’s!” sole purpose since its 1999 premiere.

The unit set is a somber gray so it lacks the bright white coloring usually seen in Greek towns but it stays out of the way so the dances can explode all over the stage.  Bright and revealingly designed costumes enforce the townspeople’s sparse but colorful attire.  Alan Ruch’s well amplified band plays the score dynamically.  The well noticed body microphones permit not a word of dialogue to be missed.

Especially strong are Donna’s two friends, Rosie, played with a glint in her eye by Katie McFadzen who has lots of ebullient fun with the role as she sings with big-voiced panache.  Elyse Wolf is aloof but quick to accept man-pleasures as Tanya.  Debby Rosenthal’s Donna stresses the character’s independence as she croons with high-spirited liveliness.  Sophie is played with steadfast honorableness by Sarah Daniels as she wistfully sings the show’s romantically dreamy ballads.

Mark Bacon is a stalwart Sky, Kyle Sorrell is an introspective but fun-loving Harry, Phillip Arran’s Sam sings and acts with stylish aplomb, while D. Scott Withers is appropriately manly as Harry.  A talented ensemble sings and dances with ebullient effervescence.

Phoenix Theatre’s “Mamma Mia!” delights and you won’t find any better entertainment in the Valley.  “Mamma Mia!” plays through October 15.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A