Review: ‘Mamma Mia!’ at Westchester Broadway Theatre

Westchester Broadway Theatre is currently delighting audiences with a dazzling performance of Mamma Mia! This is their 200th production and is well worthy of the honor. From the beautiful peaceful opening to the rousing finale this musical is a must see!

Jennifer Swiderski, (Rosie) Michelle Dawson (Donna Sheridan), and Elise Kinnon (Tanya). Photo by John Vecchiolla.

Starring in this musical, along with the exceptional cast, are the songs of ABBA, music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus and some songs with Stig Anderson. Originally developed in 1980s, then Theater producer Judy Cramer recognized the possibility of combining ABBA’s music with a story and she asked Playwright Catherine Johnson to write the book.

Director/Choreographer Mark Martino did an outstanding job, and his choreography was entertaining and diverse. Whether simple and realistic or energetic and full-out, the attention to detail was notable. Hand movements, facial expressions, body positioning, the dancing in and out of some of the props, all added to the enjoyment of this musical.

The play opens with daughter Sophie, played by Mariah MacFarlane, singing “I Have a Dream” in her beautiful clear voice, pulling the audience right in to the story. Then she and her two best friends, played by Sydney Patrick and Cameron Anika Hill, entertained us with their youthful exuberance during “Honey, Honey.”

Nathan Cockroft, portraying Sophie’s fiancé Sky, was terrific. He had good chemistry with Mariah MacFarlane, and danced very well, particularly with the ensemble in “Lay All Your Love on Me.”

Michelle Dawson portrays Sophie’s mother Donna, and her acting and singing were superb. Her flustered reaction to simultaneously finding three old boyfriends on her doorstep was amusing and relatable. Her strong, lovely voice shone while singing “S.O.S.,” and “Slipping Through My Fingers,” but the dramatic “The Winner Takes It All” was truly impressive.

Front: Mariah MacFarlane (Sophie) Back: Xander Chauncey (Sam Carmichael), Kilty Reidy (Harry) and Brent Bateman (Bill). Photo by John Vecchiolla.

Xander Chauncey portrays Sam Carmichael, the man who broke Donna’s heart. Chauncey has an excellent voice which blends well with Michelle Dawson’s. (If you saw Jekyll & Hyde at Westchester Broadway Theatre, you will be happy to see them paired again.) He has a distinguished presence on stage while portraying Sam as sincere and caring. Kilty Reidy does a great job portraying the nervous energy of Harry Bright, as does Brent Bateman as the intrepid larger-than-life explorer.

Donna’s two best friends, Jennifer Swiderski (Rosie) and Elise Kinnon (Tanya), added humor to the show with their antics. Their attitudes were contagious. But when they sang “Chiquitita” together their harmonies blended flawlessly. Donna and her friends used to have a singing group called Donna and the Dynamos and their performances are wonderful. It was a pleasure to hear three strong and beautiful voices together.

Adding to the fun were the ensemble members: Deshawn Bowens, Brian Dillon, Brett-Marco Glauser, Alicia Hemann, Cameron Anika Hill, Lily Lewis, Sydney Patrick, Bailey Purvis, Matty Rickard, Kyle White, and Connor Wince. Their dancing was very energetic and fully-committed. Their synchronization was spot on down to finger movements in “Money, Money, Money.” The dancing to “Lay All Your Love on Me” and “Take a Chance on Me” were highlights as were the incredible finale numbers.

Costume Designer Jeff Hendry did a marvelous job with great attention to detail, including the beach shoes, but the outfits Donna and the Dynamos wore were fantastic, as were the fluorescent neon costumes used during “Under Attack” depicting Sophie’s nightmare. Tanya, Elise Kinnon, had a lovely wardrobe as well as a beautiful hairstyle by hair designer Gerard Kelly.

The set, designed by Steve Loftus, consisted of an outside view of the Greek Villa. The two two-story buildings on each side of the stage with a moveable connecting center, all in white with royal blue windows and flower boxes, was charming. A bedroom would rise up from the floor for the inside scenes. Set construction was by Scene Works, Ossining, NY. With the center piece removed, a large blue curtain represented the Aegean Sea with lighting by Andrew Gmoser affecting the shimmering waves. When Donna first sees Sam, her anger is also communicated by some dramatic red lighting, and the lighting for the night scenes was soft and warm.

The cast of Mamma Mia! Photo by John Vecchiolla.

The live band was terrific. The six members included Musical Director Eric Alsford on keyboards, along with Ryan Wise also on keyboards, Ken Ross on drums, Jordan Jancz on bass, and David Shoup and Nick Dickerson on guitar. The fullness of sound during “The Winner Takes It All” was impressive with the drums truly adding to the drama.

Mamma Mia! is a story about love and heartbreak, but also the touching story of a mother and her daughter who is struggling to find herself. The story, set to the music of ABBA, sung by magnificent voices, takes the audience through many moods from sweet and sentimental, to laughter, to energetic fun, including some impressive backflips! Don’t miss Westchester Broadway Theatre’s entertaining production of Mamma Mia!

Running Time: Approximately two hours, with one 30-minute intermission.

Mamma Mia! plays through June 25, 2017, at Westchester Broadway Theatre – One Broadway Plaza, in Elmsford NY. For tickets, call the box office at (914) 592-2222, or purchase them online.


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