THE GREEK TAVERNA TAKES OVER TRI VALLEY REP AS ABBA’S POP SCORE “DANCING QUEEN” IS A SURE WINTER HIT FOR FANS WHO CAN’T STOP DANCING AND SINGING ABBA HITS
“Here we go again” I am back to the Aegean sea island as I accompanied bride Sophie at the Greek taverna Villa in search for her real Dad. The Tri Valley Rep opens the winter theater season with the hit musical MAMMA MIA only through February 2nd at the Bankhead Center for the Arts. The jukebox musical MAMMA MIA is based on the disco-era hits of the Swedish band ABBA. Book by Catherine Johnson, music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. The wedding of the year has been rocking Bay Area regional stages for 4 years now - at times the Wedding is playing every month on a stage near you. Why? Audiences can’t wait to see this jukebox party, it is a cash cow for regional Theatres. Opening night at the Bankhead was sold out “A rare sight” says Director Producer Kathleen Breedveld.
Co Director Brian Olkowski says the company is dreaming big, “we have such a talented cast full of passion and this is a sure fun night at theatre." Directed by both Olkowski and Breedveld they bring a new look to a musical I have seen more than a dozen times. Music Director Sierra Dee brings the classic 80’s take to many of the hit ABBA songs. Choreographer Meghan Hornbacker brings a high energy disco to the dance portion of MAMMA MIA. The set is simple so this show highlights the busy cast and pushes the featured actors and song up front including the hit “Dancing Queen’.
HISTORY: After 5,770 world wide performances, MAMMA MIA received two Drama Desk Awards and five Tony Award Nominations. The popular 2008 movie starring Meryl Streep and the sequel has introduced a new generation to the music of ABBA. With icon hits like “Mamma Mia,” and “SOS,” the cast of twenty does not disappoint at this wedding bash.
This short review won’t include any story info, we know Sophie wants to meet her real dad and to give her away. I will keep to the point and mention the actors and some of their performances. The 27 member first rate cast includes some of the Bay Area’s best talent including the gifted Tri Valley Rep Annemarie Martin as Donna, the owner of the villa.
The splendid Jillian Abney is Donna’s daughter, the bride Sophie. The three dads, Sam played by local favorite Robert Lopez, the terrific Mathew Kelly plays Harry, and Bill is played by the distinguished Russell Mangan. All three dads sing the banner song “Mamma Mia” with Martin and Hornbacker’s dance team is on que in this number and all 28 songs.
The chorus and dance ensemble are an important part of this MAMMA. They dominate the two act show dressed in island dance clothes designed by Patricia K Pope and her team of dressers including Joan Brown, Ronna Lagin, MaryKay Steveson and Deborah Lagin.
The vibrant ensemble includes; JD Cerruti, Leo Diaz, Matthew Glynn, Will Schubert, Ryan Ducker, Amanda Boyan, Michelle Freschi, Arielle Garcia, Hillary Huff, Courtney Jacobs, Katherine Mathers, Bridget Mayhew, Tori, Speed and Cody Moore who plays Father Alexandrios, including the gifted dancer Elijah Maravilla all bring a new arch to the ABBA hit songs. Hornbacker stages many of the numbers with a 80’s pop feel that warms this island Villa disco. The the classic wetsuit and flippers number “Lay All Your Love on Me” by the male cast is a highlight of the first Act.
Abney shines in her songs “Honey Honey” and “Name of the Game” they are upbeat as she gives a fresh take to her character. Sophie's two gal pals Ali and Lisa are played by the enthusiastic Michelle Roque and Jenna Van Ommeren who backs up Abney in “Money Money Money”.
The handsome groom, Sky, is played by Robby Abney who in real life is married to his lead. a good match and you can see their authentic timing on stage. Their romance and song “Lay All Your Love On Me” is keen, and Robbie's bachelor party number is a wet suit swagger. The two Villa boys Eddie and Pepper are terrific in this show, the two Tri Valley vets Dominic Lessa and Jared Sigman play the two local boys who flirt with Donna’s girl pals.
Martin’s big voice as Donna delivers in “Winner Takes It All”. Her two best friends Rosie and Tanya played by the superb Christina Boothman and Lisa Appleyard rock in the classic “Dancing Queen” and get to the disco fun as soon as they discover their boa’s. The two Directors keep the large cast moving and the company dance numbers are all impressive and dazzling.
The rich blue tone of the villa is highlighted by the ensemble, but the set adds to the island ocean feel. Lighting designer Erica Engel adds the disco feel to the uplifting final 80’s party. Music director Dee has a full force pit of six musicians that fill the Bankhead theatre with ABBA hits. Dee’s’ direction includes the infectious disco beat in “I Do, I Do, I Do” and SOS.
The energized sold out opening night audience claps and sings with the cast. This is a rare blessing for Tri Valley to have a sell out show bring new fans to their audience. The clever props by Joan Brown and Breedveld include wedding flowers and fun microphones for the fab “Donna and the Dynamos” and plenty of boas, and champagne glasses. Scott Johnson’s sound team includes Cameron Assadi with Desired Effect who brought the perfect tone to this wedding celebration. Director Olkowski is also the stage manager along with Jess Hutchins and Jennie Jennings. Yet the cast did most of the set changes moving on and off the island with ease.
The curtain call ABBA mosh mix is always a standing ovation celebration. The audience dancing in their seats during the finale has become a ritual, the audience is easily one of the stars of this show. This company will not disappoint in this version of MAMMA MIA. Next up at TVRT is the Fossie treat DAMN YANKEES that opens April 25th. This summer Stephen Schwartz CHILDREN OF EDEN opens on July 18th. But in the meantime attend the wedding of the fall season, MAMMA MIA is always a treat no matter how many times you attend this wedding. Few tickets remain to book your seats today.
Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre Presents:
Music by ABBA
Music and Lyrics by
Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvanus
Book by Catherine Johnson
Directed by: Brian Olkowski
and Kathleen Breedveld
Musical Director: Sierra Dee-Rankin
Choreographer: Meghan Hornbacker
Producer: Kathleen Breedveld
Must Close Feb 2nd 2020
PERFORMED AT THE BANKHEAD THEATER
2400 FIRST STREET, LIVERMORE, CA 94550
Runs Two hours with one intermission
A few Tickets remain at
Photos by BOB BRONZA
Go See A Show - INTERVIEWS WITH THE CAST
Donna: Annemarie Martin, Sam: Robert Lopez, Sophie: Jillian Abney,Tanya: Lisa Appleyard,Bill; Russell Mangan,Rosie: Christina Boothman, Harry: Matthew Kelly, Sky: Robby Abney, Pepper: Dominic Lessa, Eddie: Jared Sigman, Lisa: Jenna Van, Ommeren, Ali: Michelle Roque
Cody Moore (Father Alexandrios), Elijah Maravilla
JD Cerruti, Leo Diaz, Matthew Glynn, Will Schubert
Amanda Boyan, Michelle Freschi, Arielle Garcia
Hillary Huff, Courtney Jacobs, Katherine Mathers
Bridget Mayhew, Tori Speed