Tuesday, April 13, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 6

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on August 15th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 24 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 19, Issue 24

PCPA's 'Mamma Mia!' gives audiences all the ABBA they want and then some

By Rebecca Rose

When it comes to the music of 1970s super act ABBA, people either fall in one of two camps. It's either literal ear poison that makes you want to scream until the pain stops or it is the soul-swelling soundtrack to your life that can send you soaring into another dimension where all your dreams come true at the mere sound of a few notes tinkling in the distance.

Tim Fullerton (pictured left) as Sam Carmichael and Michael Tremblay as Harry Bright are part of the Pacific Conservatory Theatre’s (PCPA) production of Mamma Mia!, which runs at the Solvang Festival Theater through Aug. 26.

Clearly, I fall into the latter category. I live for the music of Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad and their wonderful fables of pretty girls wooed by charming boys and a hunger for the bright lights of a big stage. People like me wanted to live in every song, to dance with Fernando, to glare into cavernous crowds looking for the super trooper, and to be the 17-year-old girl who for one night gets to be crowned the dancing queen. And thanks to a little musical made in 1999, now we all can.

Mamma Mia! launched at the Prince Edward Theatre in London and quickly became an instant hit. It debuted on Broadway in 2001 and spawned a national touring production, eventually going on to be nominated for five Tony Awards in 2002. But it was the movie version, starring Meryl Streep, which catapulted the production into another echelon of pop culture. With a sequel out now in theaters, the Pacific Conservatory Theatre's (PCPA) production of the original musical seems like a well-timed choice, especially for a summer audience.

For those who still don't know the story, Mamma Mia! tells the tale of Donna Sheridan (Melinda Parrett) and the mystery of who the father of her daughter, Sophie (Molly Dobbs), is. Donna has raised Sophie on a Greek island which has a special significance to her, all while trying to run a bar. She struggles with maintaining her business and keeping her secrets hidden in the past. Sophie, an airy and optimistic 21-year-old, is set to marry Sky, but before she does she wants to know the true identity of her father. 

Pictured left to right: Allison Rich as Tanya, Melinda Parrett as Donna Sheridan, and Kitty Balay as Rose play Donna and the Dynamos, a once great girl band that reunites for Donna’s daughter’s wedding in PCPA’s production of Mamma Mia!

Sophie pokes around in her mother's diary and comes up with three names: Harry Bright (Michael Tremblay), Bill Austin (Erik Stein), and Sam Carmichael (Tim Fullerton). Sophie secretly invites them to her wedding, unbeknownst to Donna. Donna also invites her former bandmates from Donna and the Dynamos including Tanya (Allison Rich) and Rose (Kitty Balay). While Sophie tries to keep her mom from finding out what she's done, the men slowly start to piece together why the young girl has brought them here. Important questions come up, such as: Does Sophie really want to get married or is she just putting this together so she can find her real father? (But don't worry, there's a wedding in the end.)

But the truth is, you're not going to see Mamma Mia! to contemplate a nuanced and insightful plot. You're going for the music. And PCPA gives you plenty of it. The numbers are packed tightly into the running time, giving your ear barely a few moments to take a breath before pumping out another big ABBA hit. You will be energized by "Dancing Queen," which the performers capture the essence of almost perfectly, envisioning themselves as the three young girls they once were, spinning around in a bedroom, dreaming of the days when they were stage stars. 

Thank you for the music
The Pacific Conservatory Theatre’s (PCPA) production of Mamma Mia! runs through Aug. 26 at the Solvang Festival Theater, 420 2nd St, Solvang. More info: (805) 922-8313

Dobbs caught my eye in PCPA's production of Freaky Friday, but this feels like the role she was absolutely born to play. Her singing voice is angelic and lovely, capturing the innocence of Sophie as well as the quiet conflict bubbling beneath the surface of the young girl. Dobbs is growing with this role, another example of how PCPA doesn't just entertain us but fosters young and new talent as they evolve in their performing careers.

So take a chance on Mamma Mia! (stop groaning, you knew I was going to make a pun somewhere in here). You won't be disappointed you gave them your money money money. 

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose has a dream. Contact her at rrose@santamariasun.com.

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