REVIEW: Thank You for the Music & ‘Mamma Mia!,’ Greenville Theatre

BY SANDY STAGGS
DRAMA CRITIC

Latreshia Lilly, Kristi Parker Byers, and Beth Martin star in Mamma Mia! Photo by Wallace Krebs Photography

Mamma Mia! is one of those rare shows that actors gravitate to and audiences absolutely devour, as they are currently at Greenville Theatre in a magnificent production (4 out of 4 Stars) running through June 26.

The book and plot is hokey, but this show is all about the music – more than twenty Billboard hits from Swedish super band ABBA that pass the test of time and still have audiences dancing on their feet by the finale. Mamma Mia! is the ninth longest running musical in Broadway history, and sixth longest running show in the West End.

It seems every single theatre across the Upstate has staged this 70s pop extravaganza, and I have seen most of them, in addition to the national tour three times.

I won’t get into which local production is better or best in this review, because all had elements of excellence. However, none can top Greenville Theatre’s smashing, glimmering finale, directed by Max Quinlan, Producing Artistic Director.

In a nutshell, the plot of Mamma Mia! exists only to connect these infectiously sing-along ditties written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus.

Sophie (a crisp, powerhouse performance by Adell Ehrhorn) is getting married and wants to invite her unknown father to the wedding. After rifling through her mother’s diary, she finds three men her mother dated (and “Dot, Dot, Dot”) around nine months before Sophie’s birth and secretly sends them all invitations to the nuptials (in her mother’s name).

Donna (the indelible Kristi Parker Byers), is the proud single mom (and former leader of the short-lived girl group Donna and the Dynamos) who is busily planning the wedding at her villa on the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi, and awaiting the arrival of her two besties: Tanya and Rosie (played by the always stellar duo of Beth Martin and Latreshia Lilly).

And one by one, the three fellas from Donna’s past show up and stake a claim to fatherhood with exceptional showings by all three actors: Blake Smith as the dashing architect Sam Carmichael; Javy Pagan as banker and former musician Harry Bright; and travel writer Bill Austin, played hilariously by GT mainstay Evan Harris.

Mitchell Smith is Sky, Sophie’s handsome fiance, while his pals are played by Jamie Riedy and Maxwell Weaver.

Sophie’s bridesmaids are embodied by Abby Kohake and Loren Clark.

And the exquisite song and dance ensemble includes Carter Allen, Andrew Anderson, Hannah Grace Attaway, Kelly Davis, Chris Foster, Bailee Loging,
Carley Tomlinson, Jonathan Torres, and Jamie Ann Walters.

My favorite moments? Byers in “The Winner Takes It All,” The stellar finale and transformation, “Dancing Queen,” Martin in “Does Your Mother Know,” and Lilly’s side-splitting seduction of Harris in “Does Your Mother Know?”

Music Direction is by Victoria Bess Adams and the delightful choreography is by Grayson Anthony, with scenic design by Jenni Baldwin, lighting design by Cory Granner, costumes (those splendid Dynamo bell bottoms) by Thomas Brooks, technical director is Graham Shaffer, and stage manager is Meetra Moyer.

Mamma Mia! continues through June 26 at Greenville Theatre, 444 College Street in Greenville. For tickets, visit greenvilletheatre.org or call (864) 233-6238.

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