ELM GROVE — A musical that has a lot to offer, “Mamma Mia!” is a favorite for those who love ABBA’s music and like a good story with its share of emotion. Sunset’s production, well-directed by Nate C. Groonwald, features a stellar cast, a harmonious ensemble, vigorous dancing, and a surprise but happy feel-good ending. It well-deserved its enthusiastic reception from a packed house.
The setting is a small Greek island, where Sophie, a young woman about to be married, awaits some close friends who are coming to the event, as does her mother, Donna, who has also invited a couple dear friends with whom she once was the lead in a trio of performers. The reunions are heartfelt to say the least. The spirit of joy prevails.
But the guests that Sophie is most anxiously hoping will come are three men that her mom was once involved with nine months before she was born. Sophie wants to meet her father and so, unbeknownst to her mother, has invited all three former suitors to the island. These three man are in the dark as to who sent them the invitation and why they sent it. Sophie believes that she will instinctively recognize which of the three men is her father. Another person, by the way, who has not been informed of Sophie’s little scheme is her fiancŽ. So confusion prevails. Only Sophie’s two close friends are in on her search for her father.
As the story progresses, we are treated with some lovely solos - “I Have a Dream” is movingly delivered by Sophie and “Slipping through My Fingers,” stirringly rendered by Donna. Both Hope Reisterer as Sophie and her mom Donna played by Laura Monagle are perfectly cast. The latter is especially effective at expressing her many conflicted emotions. She was definitely the star.
One of her suitors, Sam Carmichael, is very well played by Stephen Pfisterer. He was especially effective in his facial expressions as Donna delivered her painful but powerful memories in her rendition of “The Winner Takes It All,” the best single number in the show. Carmichael was very effective in his solo number, “Knowing Me, Knowing You.” He had a winsome quality about him. We could feel his pain as well.
The other two suitors from the past include Harry Bright (Karl Miller), the generous wealthy British banker, and Bill Austen (Scott Kopischke), the single explorer who has avoided close relationships. His reactions to the aggressive come-on by Rosie, Donna’s friend, was quite entertaining. He looked terrified but intrigued.
Donna’s two dear friends and fellow entertainers, Tanya Cresham-Leigh (Kassandra Novell) and Rosie Mulligan (Tamara Martinsek), have both created memorable characters who provide much of the humor.
The ensemble numbers – “Mamma Mia,” “Dancing Queen,” and the grand finale are the best among many. The choreography by Ashley Patin was well-coordinated, and Clayton R. Irwin as Pepper and the Dance Captain certainly added to the whole with his dance moves. Lisa Quinn, the costume designer, also deserves mention.
I have seen “Mamma Mia!” many times, but this was certainly one of the best. Don’t miss this one.
The musical runs through Nov. 3 at Sunset Playhouse at 700 Wall St., Elm Grove. Call 262-782-4430 or visit www.SunsetPlayhouse.com.