‘Mamma Mia!’ continues at Millbrook Playhouse

MILL HALL — Although Millbrook Playhouse opened its 56th season with a small-scaled family show, the rafters of the old barn theatre are now almost shaking as the big, full-throated songs of “Mamma Mia!” burst forth. So, Producing Artistic Director David Leidholdt may not have had his tongue-in-cheek when he proudly stated “‘Mamma Mia!’ is gonna bring down the barn.”

Perhaps the most anticipated show in Millbrook’s 2019 summer lineup, “Mamma Mia!” roars onto the Main Stage with 7:30 p.m. performances tonight, tomorrow and Saturday; and July 3, 5 and 6, with 2 p.m. matinees on June 29-30, and July 3.

With the internationally acclaimed musical comedy relegated to the second spot in Millbrook’s 2019 summer lineup, “Mamma Mia!” continues to deliver a thoroughly entertaining whalop to its hand-clapping, appreciative audiences during its three-weekend run.

Set in a picturesque Greek island, young bride-to-be Sophie reads in her mother’s diary secret entries that Donna had three lovers, any one of which could be Sophie’s father. So without telling her mother, Sophie invites all three to her wedding, hoping that her true father’s identity will be revealed in time to have him walk her down the aisle. But of course, there’s lots of complications — and plenty of ABBA’s hand-clapping tunes — that intervene.

This jukebox musical features 22 of ABBA’s hits and is the No. 9 longest-running show in Broadway history. And for Millbrook theatergoers, “Mamma Mia!” is a must-see musical.

Even those who have seen the couple of “Mamma Mia!” movies will still feel rejuvenated watching ABBA’s highly infectious songs performed live by the energetic cast.

Heading Millbrook’s “super-trouper” cast are Monica Howe as the distraught Donna; and Alison Fisher as her inquisitive, 19-year-old daughter Sophie.

Adding to Donna’s quandary is the return of her former rock band mates from Donna and the Dynamics. Providing laughs and some catchy lyrics are Sarah Goldstein as the no-nonsense, gregarious Rockin’ Rosie; and Kristin Rose Kelleher as thrice-married Tanya, with her voracious, romantic yearnings.

All of Sophie’s potential fathers show up, with Millbrook’s colorful trio consisting of Tim Garner as laid-back architect Sam; Steve Aguirre as world-traveling Bill; and Daniel Walstad as the ex-rock star Harry, each returning from Donna’s past after nearly 20 years. The large cast also includes Sam W. Snyder as Sky.

It may be that the show’s writer simply concocted the thin plot to string together ABBA’s songs, but likely no one in Millbrook’s audiences will complain.

What should be applauded and is deservedly appreciated is the sure-fire direction of Shannon Agnew. Starring in the Cabaret finale “Every Brilliant Thing,” Millbrook veteran Agnew keeps the cast and the action flowing.

Her brisk pacing is aided by Mo Ortbal’s Music Direction of the ABBA songs written by Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson. Of the smoothly blended vocals, my personal favorites — in addition to Donna belting out the title tune — are “Take A Chance On Me” and “The Joker Takes It All.”

Catherine DeLuce’s choreography is constantly exuberant, as the principals and energetic ensemble of varying ages and body styles boogie and dance around the Greek isle setting.

Played in two acts, and rated PG-13, Millbrook’s “Mamma Mia!” is sometimes silly and often self-conscious. But don’t underestimate its appeal and more importantly, its high entertainment value.

Once Donna’s Dynamos don their old disco duds at the pre-wedding party, watch out! Standing and singing, swinging and swaying — and even dancing in the aisles has been known to occur.

For more information, call 570-748-8083 or visit millbrookplayhouse.org.

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