In the starring role of Sophie in “Mamma Mia!,” Hali Greenhouse (center) is joined here by Martikah Williams (left) as Ali and Chelsea Lembo (right) as Lisa (photo by Amelia Beamish)
The Central New York Playhouse’s production of “Mamma Mia!” maintained a contagiously fun vitality for the entire duration of its Valentine’s Day opening at ShoppingTown Mall, kicking off a run that concludes March 2.
The Catherine Johnson-penned musical, based around the music of Swedish pop quartet ABBA, centers on a soon-to-be-married young woman who invites three of her mother’s estranged lovers to the wedding.
The show, directed by Stephfond Brunson, commenced with a rollicking overture by the onstage pit orchestra, which played tightly throughout from the confines of a two-story setup covered in vines.
Early on an electrical buzzing intruded from above and permeated the play’s spoken portions, though it became less bothersome after time. I assumed it was unpreventable, perhaps a side effect of performing in the building. There were also occasional issues with feedback and volume levels, in addition to some marginally flubbed lines here and there.
However, the cast members managed to pull through unfazed and put on a solid staging full of palpable chemistry, well-delivered humor and charisma.
The starring roles are all spectacularly filled. Hali Greenhouse, in the role of Sophie, exhibited dynamic singing and earnestness in her acting. Her performance hit a power-packed zenith with the closing number “I Have a Dream,” which featured tight harmonies courtesy of the ensemble. Becky Bottrill, who plays Donna, displayed her formidable pipes as well, especially so on “The Winner Takes It All.” Robert G. Searle, as Sam, best showed his versatility as a singer in “Knowing You, Knowing Me,” while he and Bottrill combined forces successfully with the electric duet “S.O.S.”
Other strong points included the lighting and choreography—both executed to perfection—while the renditions of “Chiquitita,” “Gimme Gimme Gimme” and “Take a Chance on Me” rounded out the standout songs prior to the bows, after which the audience was treated to the production’s riveting encore, as is customary. The coquettish workout “Does Your Mother Know?” also deserves mention, if solely for its acrobatics.
Even the most casual of ABBA listeners can’t help but enjoy, at the very least, the endearing story of the bond between mother and daughter dovetailed with longtime friends reliving old glories and discovering new ones.
Tickets for “Mamma Mia!” can be purchased on the community theater’s website, cnyplayhouse.org. The theater is located on the second floor of the mall, near the former Macy’s entrance, and can be contacted at 315-885-8960.