Rainbow Stage has a hit on their hands with this Abba lovefest.
A light, romantic comedy, Mamma Mia is set on a small Greek island on the eve of Sophie's (Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane) wedding to Sky (Drew Plummer). Eager to finally discover the identity of her father, Sophie invites three strong contenders from her mother's (Ma-Anne Dionisio) past to the wedding with the hopes of uncovering this 20-year secret.
Catherine Johnson's jukebox musical allows the music of Abba to take centre stage with a sweet, funny plot driving the action. The lush vocal arrangements highlight both the sunny pop and the operatic drama that make this music so enjoyable.
Winnipeg's Rainbow Stage is known for its excellent ensembles and this cast is no exception. The dancing is sharp and the singing is particularly strong. Choreographer Lisa Stevens does an admirable job capturing the silly sexiness of the script. The male ensemble's wetsuit flipper dance is everything.
Dionisio and Sinclair-Brisbane bring world-class vocals and sensitive character portrayals to their performances as the mother and daughter.
The possible dads, played by Kevin McIntyre, Clint Butler and Arne MacPherson, develop the sweet nostalgia of the show as loves lost are remembered. MacPherson is not the strongest singer but more than makes up for it with his hilarious come-on scene with Denise Oucharek.
Hands down, the stars of the show are Oucharek and Jennifer Lyon as Donna's former bandmates and best friends. With these two strong middle-aged characters, director Anne Hodges really lets loose, producing side-splitting results. Not only are they gorgeous singers, but Oucharek and Lyon bring over-the-top physical comedy — raunchy, sexy funny.
Lyon's rendition of Does Your Mother Know, in which she flirts outrageously with one of the island workers, almost brought the house down. Any number that includes nipple tweaking in the choreography is well worth the price of admission.
It's all in good fun though, and if children are in attendance, most of the flirting and innuendo will likely go right over their heads.
Each dad possibility sings a duet with former lover Donna. The slower, more emotionally fraught pieces provide an opportunity for each of these actors to shine, but the momentum slows considerably and makes for a draggier second half in this two hour, 20 minute show.
Unfortunately, there were some sound issues. In particular, Sinclair-Brisbane's mic was way too hot, which created an uneven balance in the sound mix. Even more disastrous was the terrible crackling that permeated her solo in I Have a Dream.
Finally, the staged singalong that served as the encore was weirdly flat. It had all the right bits — flashy costumes, sparkly set pieces, rousing song and dance numbers — but the energy depended on audience participation, and the opening night crowd didn't seem familiar enough with Abba to really embrace the singalong.
No matter, this is perfect summer fare — a light romantic comedy that is hilariously funny in parts with gorgeously produced music. Get yourself to this Greek getaway.
Mamma Mia! runs at Rainbow Stage until Aug. 31, 2017.