REVIEW: Market Theatre’s ‘Mamma Mia!’

Market Theatre Company’s Mamma Mia! is one not to be missed!

By Martha Vandella

Ally McCaslin and Becca Payne in Mamma Mia!

Under the full Buck Moon, some 1,200 revelers gather to view the Market Theatre Company’s production of Mamma Mia! The excitement is palpable as neighbors scooch over to make room for latecomers, pre-show music bellows throughout the park, and smiling faces of people finally venturing out after what feels like a lifetime of isolation. FOMO should be a real concern as this production of Mamma Mia! is one for the books.

The overture begins and I’m not the only one who can’t sit still. The familiar bubbly music of Abba sets the tone of a lighthearted, upbeat musical that is appropriate for all ages. Even the two Anderson Police officers on duty seemed to be tapping their feet.

Our story begins with Sophie, played by Ally McCaslin. Her voice is captivating, sweet and flawlessly rings out through the amphitheater. Sophie is backed by her bridesmaids Ali and Lisa played by Shelby Parker and DeAna Gregory, who instantly lock into impressive harmonies and help their bestie prepare the final touches for her wedding day. The plot begins to unfold as we learn that Sophie has invited 3 of her mother’s former flings, hoping to learn who her father is before her big moment.

Our male ensemble keeps the momentum going as Sophie’s Dad’s arrive on the island. Former heartbreaker Sam, played by Virgil Hobbs is determined to make things right again with Donna. Hobbs’ delivers a strong performance, embracing the high energy and drama of the character. Harry Headbanger, played by Mark Cawood offers a robust tenor performance, and Bill Austin, played by Greenville veteran Rod McClendon – rounds out the trio with an entertaining and comical delivery. Sophie’s groom Sky is expertly played by Noah Thomas, bringing steamy chemistry coupled with an obvious love and concern for Sophie’s journey to uncover her past.

Becca Payne delights us in the role Donna – her rich, sultry alto voice bellowing out through multiple solos and taking the lead in ensemble numbers. Payne is backed by Julie Florin and Tish Crittendon as Tanya & Rosie. The trio is reminiscent of Sex in the City as they relive their glory days and reminisce about their wild, pre-motherhood escapades. Florin aptly doubles as Musical Director, and delivers a comical cougar like character, while Crittedon warms our hearts when she finally convinces Bill to “take a chance” on her.

Director Dalton Cole takes us on a journey between the high energy moments of the youth ensemble, intimate moments, and full out crowd pleasers. Not a beat is missed as we watch with anticipation at Donna’s internal struggle of wanting to reconnect with her old flames, Sophie and Sky navigating their young romance, and the playful banter between Sophie’s three dads.

Costumes by Sarah Green are colorful and fun – adding to the Mediterranean Greek Isle theme of the show, and they look great on everyone. Choreography by Grayson Anthony is high energy and accents the lyrics of the piece. We marvel at scantily clad twenty somethings dancing their hearts out, and the adult ensemble impressively grooving as well – each cast member certainly getting their steps in for this performance.

Overall, the production is stunning and uses the entire park as it’s playground. Performers enter from every which way, all in character as they make their way front and center. The leads are all expertly fitted with body microphones, and easily heard from anywhere in the park.

Mamma Mia! runs through Sunday 7/25 7:30pm in Carolina Wren Park in Anderson. Tickets are free and donations are welcome. Arrive early to find a parking space, and bring a chair. Popcorn and craft beer are available for purchase, and the deli next door gives an impressive hustle to accommodate the pre-show and intermission sandwich rush.

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