Highly Recommended **** Those of you familiar with The Paramount Theatre in Aurora will not be surprised to hear that the 2016/17 season opener, “Mamma Mia!” is brilliant! This theater has been wowing its audiences since its inception and the Jeff Award nominations and awards keep on piling up. Bravo to Jim Corti, Tim Rater and the staff of this company. I have been witness to many productions of this special musical story. made up of the music of ABBA (Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus and some songs by Stig Anderson), and this rendition made the experience seem fresh. The book by Catherine Johnson tells us a charming story about a young girl, Sophie (the lovely Kiersten Frumkin) who is about to get married. She has been raised on a lovely Greek Island by her single mother, Donna ( a solid portrayal by Amy Montgomery) , a former member of a singing trio during the 70’s.
Sophie would like to have her father be a part of the ceremony, but has no idea who he might be. Her mother has a diary, which she has found indicating that around the time of her conception, Donna had dot-dot-dot (you will understand this better from the show) with three men. She takes it upon herself to invite all three to her nuptials in hopes that she will know which one is THE right one. The three men are Sam (deftly handled by Jeff Diebold), Bill (Steve O’Connell does a solid job) and Harry (smartly handled by Michael Gillis). The three men are all different and each one wants to take on the missing part of Sophie’s life, for her sake as well as Donna’s ( and their own).
Donna’s former trio members, the very sexy Tanya (played to perfection by Jennifer Knox, although she seemed a bit young for the role) and Rosie (adorably played by the feisty Sara Sevigny, who knows how to play an audience) have come back for the wedding as well as to help her relive her youth. What we enjoy is two hours and twenty minutes (with a 15 minute intermission) of great story-telling with wonderful music. Uniquely directed by Jim Corti, who as always does not imitate the usual production, but in fact adds his own interpretation making it seem new and bright (I have seen numerous versions and truly found this one to be solidly special!).
Tom Vendafreddo and his orchestra make the music of ABBA special and despite having a few technical problems with sound, Paramount has done it again. I am positive the Jeff Committee will be nominating this production. The choreography by William Carlos Angulo is also different as is the uniqueness of the set. Unlike the Broadway production, the walls are not visible and the doors are not castle like. Kevin Depinet has designed a turntable effect with a dock surrounding a platform stage. The area can be transferred from one place to another with ease. Matt Guthier’s costumes are also bright and different from what we are used to in both the stage and movie version. The added projections (Christopher Ash, your rock!) on a screen that appears to surround the stage area bring us many different looks from the island to the ocean and when the final scene comes the balloons and lighting (Greg Hofmann) are amazing to behold. The final curtain (although there is no curtain, this is a phrase in theater) takes almost 10 minutes including bows and I can guarantee you will be “on your feet” clapping to the beat for this one!
Think of the songs””I Have A Dream”, “Honey, Honey”, “Money, Money,Money”, “Dancing Queen”, “Take A Chance on Me”, “Knowing Me, Knowing You”, “Gimme,Gimme,Gimme”, “Thank You For The Music” and oh , so many more. Great echo effects as well as electronic effects to bring a little different sound to the stage.WOW! The highly talented ensemble includes :Aubrey Adams, Heather J.Beck, Nick Cosgrove, Devin DeSantis, Adam Fane, Michael Ferraro, Allyson Graves, Kayla Kennedy, Christopher MacGregor, Courtney Mack, Mallory Maedke, Jake Morrissy, Travis Porchia, Haley Jane Schafer as well as Danni Smith who was under the weather this evening (Chicago audiences know her talent). The other characters in the production are played by Robert Wilde,Aaron Patrick Craven, Ryan McBride,Sara Reinecke, Janelle Villas and Ron King. Many of these are newcomers to Paramount, which goes to show you that there is always new and bright talent waiting in the wings. Corti and his crew know how to find them.
“Mamma Mia!” will continue at The Paramount Theatre located in Aurora at 23 East Galena Blvd, thru October 30th with performances as follows:
Wednesdays 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Thursdays 7 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 3 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 1 and 5:30 p.m.
Tickets range from $44- $59 and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 630-896-6666 or online at www.paramountaurora.com
Street parking, garage parking and valet parking are all available.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Mamma Mia!”