Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
Drawn possibly by the music of ABBA, or maybe the brand new comfy seats, or just because it was the popular musical Mamma Mia!, a sold out house greeted the debut of Flint Community Players’ 91st season Thursday night! And they were not disappointed as this amazing troupe presented a polished, well-organized and totally energetic tale of love, old and new, lost and found.
The plot is pretty simple. Set on a Greek island, young, engaged Sophie (Amber Woollcott) has read her mother, Donna’s (Rebekah Emmerling) diary and discovered that one of three men may be her father – Bill Austin (Steve Harris), Harry Bright (Graham Parker) or Sam Carmichael (Don Brewer). Sophie invites all three to her wedding at her mother’s taverna and hopes she will know immediately which of them is her father.
Woollcott sets the tone with a vocal power that is stunning. We looked forward to her singing all night! Still, she is joined by a company of incredible vocalists who clearly enjoy what they’re doing whether on or off the stage, because when only two or three are on stage singing, the whole chorus sings backup from offstage with their voices augmented by microphones.
Adding to this, the orchestra is handled incredibly well with music director Rafael McDaniel’s musicians (William Mintline, Warren Lissner, David Boze and Russ Sauter) located out of sight but also amplified by microphone allowing their sound to blend perfectly with vocals.
Interestingly, all three “dads” show up at the same time and the tests begin to see who will walk Sophie down the aisle. We can give kudos to all three of these fellows as each has a unique quality about them and a comic reaction to their situation. We won’t reveal the changes that have come about in the 20 years since they’ve been to this place, but they make for some funny moments. Their rendition of “Mamma Mia!” with Emmerling and the rest of the company is a show-stopper!
Sophie’s friends, Ali (Reagan Shook) and Lisa (Audrey Dupuis) sing “Honey, Honey” thus paving the way for Donna’s two long lost cronies, Tanya (Kristie Brahce) and Rosie (Lelia Miller). These three reminisce about their long ago singing gig with a rendition of “Dancing Queen” that is terrific. While Emmerling’s Donna is strong and independent, her two long-lost friends bring a sense of comedy that is welcome and even somewhat startling at times.
Choreography for a troupe of 25+ is no small undertaking. Rebekah Brewer has produced an accomplished, strong and energetic dance component for this musically dense production.
Director Delynne M. Miller brings a level of expertise to this production that we haven’t seen here in a while. Her cast is talented and vocally adept, and they move about the area with ease and clearly organized direction. Her set design leaves lots of room to move this large cast about without seeming cavernous when only a few remain. Sets are seamlessly switched by cast members with nary a glitch.
Often a problem, sound was handled perfectly Thursday, and diction was never a problem as vocals and music were synchronized very well.
We loved this show. It introduced a rich new group of performers who mesh beautifully and blend well vocally. Okay, the story seems to be written to accommodate the songs of ABBA, but for the most part, it works! Highlights Thursday included “Gimme, Gimme Gimmie”, “Voulez Vous” and, of course, the clever encore medley that recapped the best of the show’s numbers.
Tickets are going fast and some performances are sold out, so call soon if you want to take advantage of this amazing, fun, and very well done production. Mamma Mia! continues thru September 22. For more information and tickets contact the box office at 810-441-9302 or online at flintcommunityplayers.com