Review: Here We Go Again: Alhambra has another musical hit with ‘Mamma Mia’

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It’s been over a week and no matter what I do, I still can’t get ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” out of my head.

Maybe it’s because it’s such a catchy tune, or because of the fun time the audience had during the renditions of “Dancing Queen” at the Alhambra Theatre and Dining’s performance of “Mamma Mia.”

The long-running Broadway staple tells the story of a young woman living in the Greek isles who wants to find her biological father before she walks down the aisle. Unbeknownst to her mother, she invites the three men she believes could be her dad to her wedding and, of course, chaos ensues.

Grace Gibbons stars as bride-to-be Sophie Sheridan, and her voice is mesmerizing, much like her performance as Ariel in Alhambra’s production of “The Little Mermaid.” Kelly Atkins stars as Sophie’s mom, Donna, who has the unenviable task of marrying off her 20-year-old daughter while finding out three ex-beaus have come to town. Atkins does a great job conveying the overwhelming demands of a single mom and business owner trying to keep her island taverna afloat, while also dealing with past relationships and the footloose, free-spirited woman she once was. 

The three potential fathers, Sam Carmichael (Jim Sorenson), Bill Austin (Jim Ballard) and Harry Bright (Billy Clark Taylor), are all very different, but it’s easy to see what Donna saw in each of them. Sam, however, is the one who draws most of Donna’s ire and the one who left her with a broken heart, so their chemistry is most significant. The three actors do a great job defining each character and their individual characteristics. 

It’s probably no surprise the biggest scene stealers were Lisa Valdini and Karen Coughlin, who play Donna’s friends Rosie and Tanya. The three friends comprised Donna and Dynamos in the 1970s, and while their dance moves may have gotten a little rusty over the years, the talent and passion for performing is still very much there. 

Coughlin perfectly captures the wealthy, thrice-divorced Tanya’s sophisticated yet zany personality, and her performance of “Does Your Mother Know” was delightful. Valdini was easily a crowd favorite as Rosie with her hilarious delivery and physical comedy, especially during her performance of “Take a Chance on Me,” while pursuing the affections of Aussie Bill Austin. 

The music of Swedish pop group ABBA is perhaps the show’s biggest star and is performed beautifully by the cast. Some of the best moments are the group performances that take advantage of each cast member’s vocal strengths, like “Lay All Your Love on Me,” “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme” and, of course, “Mamma Mia.”  

Alhambra’s “Mamma Mia” is a hard ticket to get, but the theater is continuing to add dates, including a matinee showing Thursday, Aug. 29, but fair warning, it may be awhile before you get ABBA out of your head.

The show runs through Sept. 15. For more information, go to www.alhambrajax.com

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