By Chloe Salveson
Honey, honey, do I feel bad for you if you missed out on Xavier Theatre’s Mamma Mia. This musical about love, relationships and funky music deserves all of the money, money, money I spent on a ticket, and the cast deserves all the love. I have a dream that I will one day be a dancing queen like those on stage. OK, enough of the puns. This musical, though bumpy at times, superseded my expectations and made for an energetic, fun-filled night.
Set in a colorful island off the coast of Greece, Mamma Mia portrays the story of bride-to-be Sophie (played by first-year Matti Cieplak) searching for a father to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. She sends out three invitations to the men of her mother’s past in hopes of discovering her real father. After much trial and error, and many ABBA songs, Sophie recognizes the importance of independence, youth and a mother’s love.
While I loved this rendition of Mamma Mia, the musical opened with some awkward choreography, an adjective that can be utilized throughout a few different parts of the show. The actress who depicted a young Donna Sheridan, Sophie’s mother, was a beautiful dancer, but the direction did not do her talent justice. “Honey, Honey” was also off-kilter, as Sophie and her friends did not exactly fill the space.
However, I held out hope for Donna (played by Lizzy Sundstrom), and I am glad I did. I’m not particularly a fan of the song “Money, Money, Money,” but with Sundstrom at the helm, it quickly inspired my confidence in the cast’s ability to pull off a fantastic production.
Sundstrom had both the acting and singing expertise to handle such an ambitious role. By the end of the titular song, “Mamma Mia,” I was convinced she knew how to take the stage, steal the audience’s attention and ultimately make everyone, including her flings from 20 years ago, fall in love.
Don’t get me wrong — Cieplak has one of the loveliest voices, which uncannily resembles Amanda Seyfried’s singing in my opinion. Donna’s friends (played by Anna Snyder and Mia Helbig), were also phenomenal. Snyder as Tanya and Helbig as Rosie acting capabilities were especially strong; I fully believed Helbig was the comedic genius desperate for Bill, and Snyder drank wine before 5 p.m. But alas, Sundstrom was the driving force of the show, in true Donna fashion.
As for the leading men, Andrew Normington, Dylan Waters and Richie Pokrywka were wonderfully cast. Pokrywka as Sam displayed an impressive maturity unexpected from a first-year, Normington as Harry managed a pretty solid English accent and everything about Waters, including the saucy “Take a Chance on Me,” exuded Bill.
Onto a more technical perspective, the set was gorgeous but very underutilized. Compared to American Idiot, in which actors were legitimately hanging off the scaffolding, the use of the stage was underwhelming.
The lighting, however, was a show-stopper. I was genuinely curious how the lights would be implemented, with the vivid and dramatic patterns.
The lights were almost as spunky as the costumes. I couldn’t tell if the costume designers were going for late ‘80s or early 2000s, but it’s Mamma Mia, so it worked. I only wished that all actors remembered to take their masks off before attempting to act, sing or viciously dance on stage. But hey, good demonstration for parent’s weekend on what it means to be a true Masketeer.
All in all, Mamma Mia was incredible and had me longing to be a super trouper myself. I just hope that somewhere in the crowd, there was you.