Tricia Stiller/review | Cast delivers high-octane performance in Station's 'Mamma Mia'

Tricia Stiller/review | Cast delivers high-octane performance in Station's 'Mamma Mia'

For fans of a certain age, the music of Swedish pop sensation ABBA resurrects memories of disco balls, platform shoes and dancing 'till dawn.

To newer audiences, hits like "Dancing Queen" and "The Winner Takes it All" are songs on the soundtrack of a smash Broadway jukebox musical that eventually got the Hollywood treatment.

The cinematic release of "Mamma Mia!" revealed to movie audiences around the world that the legendary Meryl Streep, known for her academy award-winning roles in tearjerkers like "Kramer vs Kramer" and "Sophie's Choice" can actually sing and dance (Pierce Brosnan, not so much).

The many songs of ABBA, delivered in rapid fire succession, surround a mother-daughter story line that has all the components of a feel-good evening of theater: romance, intrigue and adventure, and we'll throw in a general salute to independent women for good measure.

We meet young Sophie (not at all related to the movie "Sophie's Choice") as she sends off three wedding invitations to her upcoming nuptials.

As she clutches her mother Donna's somewhat steamy, "glory day" diary, we discover the recipients of those invitations are Donna's three suitors, one of whom could, in fact, be Sophie's long-lost dad.

You see, Donna, back in the day, was the lead singer of a popular girl group, and in the eyes of these three would-be soulmates, her talent and charisma never faded. In fact, the memory of her has haunted them.

Sophie is overwhelmed when all three men arrive, and she struggles, unsuccessfully to keep them hidden from her mother while still attending to wedding details. With the help of their friends, mother and daughter make it to the altar at long last, but which lovely lady will actually say, "I do"?

Katie Burke directs this lively musical that showcases the talents of some new faces at the Station Theatre in Urbana.

Hannah Yonan, as Sophie, is a delightful triple threat, performing with confidence and an enviable, youthful exuberance.

Ranae Wilson, as Donna, is convincing as an independent woman at a major life crossroad. Wilson's vocal artistry was a treat.

As the suitors, David Heckman (Harry), Peter Barrett (Bill) and Kevin Wickart (Sam) are pleasant and relatable as men who share memories of a long ago summer and the girl that stole their hearts.

Though enjoyable, this production, which also features a top-notch live orchestra directed by Noah Scott Larson, may have been a tab ambitious for the intimate venue.

The already limited seating was reduced to accommodate the thrust scenic design, and the large ensemble seemed to struggle with space issues trying to execute the simple choreography.

In addition, a few costume selections revealed, perhaps, a bit more than they should have, causing some stirring of discomfort in the front rows of the audience. Still, despite these challenges, the high-octane ensemble made it work, much to the delight of the capacity crowd.

Tricia Stiller is the downtown division manager for Bloomington Community Development and the artistic director for Bloomington's Summer Theatre Program.

Sections (1):Living
Topics (1):Theater
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