Reviewing Wissahickon’s “Mamma Mia!”

This past Saturday night, I threw on my platform shoes and prepared for an ABBA-filled night. As Donna proclaims in the titular number, "here we go again!"

AMBLER- I have an unhealthy obsession with Mamma Mia! 

I know practically every word to the entire soundtrack (which I listen to daily) and have seen the movie at least ten times. I spent the spring of 2019 behind the soundboard for North Penn High School’s production of the show and only fell more in love with the songs and story by seeing them unfold on the stage. 

So naturally, I am constantly keeping an eye out for local Mamma Mia performances so I can go support local theatre and fall in love with the show all over again.

This past Saturday night, I threw on my Mamma Mia shirt, dusted off my platform shoes, and blasted some ABBA on my way to Wissahickon High School’s 2020 spring musical!  

I had never been to a Wissahickon production before, but I knew before the show even began that I would be a repeat customer. Their auditorium was gorgeous, filled with hundreds of seats that each gave an amazing view of their taverna and Greek backdrop. It took less than three songs for me to shed a tear of joy because that is Mamma Mia: pure joy.  

 

Plot: 5/5

Mamma Mia does a beautiful job of setting up the plot in the first two songs of the show. In the opening number, Sophie, played by Natalie Kaplan, mails wedding invitations to her three possible dads and then explains how she snooped through her mom’s diary to her best friends Ali (Jacey Mellon) and Lisa (Avery Hirsch). Throughout the show, we see Sophie’s mom, Donna (Caroline Zager) go on an emotional rollercoaster when confronting her three former lovers and potential co-parents; Sam (Frank Tucker), Bill (Kevin Lynch), and Harry (Colin Kohne). 

 

Acting: 5/5   

The cast did a magnificent job of delivering the hardest-hitting punchlines of the show, and Tanya (Kelsey Miller) and Rosie (Sam Harley) had show-stealing ad-libbed lines, particularly during “Dancing Queen.” Jackson Gruenke did a beautiful job of catching the frat boy-esque yet sentimental nature of Sky, and Donna poured her heart out in “The Winner Takes it All” and “Slipping Through my Fingers.”    

 

Songs: 5/5

The ABBA-tastic Mamma Mia soundtrack includes some of the greatest songs of all time; “Mamma Mia”, “Super Trouper”, “Take a Chance on Me”, and “Waterloo” being just a handful of them. Although the harmonies in “Voulez-Vous” were lacking compared to other performances I’ve seen, the number was so high-energy that is still ended Act One wonderfully. Sophie was certainly showing off, as she had some outstanding riffs during “I Have A Dream” and “Lay All Your Love on Me.” As with any high school show, there were a few minor missteps or voice cracks, but overall, the cast more than did justice to the iconic ABBA music!

 

Dancing: 4/5

Without a doubt, the best dance number of the show was “Lay All Your Love on Me”, when the male ensemble members came on stage in flippers to drag Sky away to his bachelor party! Other highlights were Tanya and Pepper’s (Aaron Seigel) salacious “Does Your Mother Know” and Bill and Rosie’s hilarious “Take a Chance on Me.”

 

Set Design/Technical Aspects: 3/5  

As a technical theatre kid myself, I know how much work they put in, which often goes underappreciated. The taverna of a set was overall very well done. They could have expanded the building across the stage more so that the characters would have more interaction with it, rather than just spending most scenes entering from the side or rear of the stage. For example, at Wissahickon, the Dynamos simply walked downstage during “Super Trouper”, whereas, at North Penn, the trio entered on a platform then came down a long set of stairs and performed centerstage. I did love three platforms jutting out from the stage that were perfectly utilized in “Our Last Summer” and “Mamma Mia.” In terms of mics, Sam cut out for a portion of “Thank You for the Music” and Harry during “Our Last Summer”, but for the majority of the show, all the mics were working and clear.  

 

Finale: 5/5

The concert finale was without a doubt the highlight of Wissahickon’s Mamma Mia! With audience participation encouraged, the ensemble performed “Mamma Mia!”, the Dynamos returned, 70’s attire and all, for an encore of “Dancing Queen”, and then the entire cast brought the house down with “Waterloo!” I can still remember the energy in the room from when North Penn did this show last year, so getting to revisit that feeling and see another group of high schoolers experience it was just amazing! 

 

Overall: 27/30

I can not wait to return to Wissahickon in 2021 for another musical; after seeing Mamma Mia!, it is clear that they have an extreme amount of talent within their walls. There were a few minor issues I had with the show, but it was an absolutely top-notch high school performance!