By SAMANTHA PIDDE
The fourth production in Timber Lake Playhouse's 2019 season, "Mamma Mia!", provides a wonderfully fun evening with a good story, a good deal of humor and great music. The jukebox musical is written by Catherine Johnson, based on the music of ABBA.
As always, the TLP cast gives a stellar performance during this production. Resident performer Emma Buchanan is perfect as Sophie, the young bride-to-be searching for her father and who she is. Buchanan pairs well with the other cast members and gives both fun and emotional solos throughout the musical.
Kaitlin Lawrence give a “Dynamo” performance as Sophie's mother Donna. The guest performer (through the Actor's Equity Association) gives a wonderful performance of this strong, single mother, struggling with confronting past loves during her daughter's wedding. Her powerful performances of "Slipping through My Fingers" and "The Winner Takes It All" will bring tears to a theater-goer’s eyes.
Guest performer Darren Mangler (Bill), resident performer James Tweedale (Harry) and guest performer (through the Actor's Equity Association) Andrew Varela (Sam) are all fantastic as Sophie's possible father.
Mangler, a Savanna native, is fun and witty as Bill. He plays well with several of the cast members. His performance of "The Name of the Game" with Buchanan is beautiful and sweet.
Tweedale, who has shown his versatility in various roles throughout TLP's 2019 season, shines as Harry. The actor gives a great performance as this slightly stuffy banker trying to reclaim and remember his youth when he was once spontaneous.
Varela gives an unforgettable performance as Sam, the man Donna has tried the hardest to forget. His version of "Knowing Me, Knowing You," is beautiful and heartbreaking.
"Mamma Mia" is very much a story about the importance of family and friends and both Donna and Sophie have two best friends, always ready to support them. Resident performers Morgan Arrivillaga and Michel Vasquez are great as Sophie's friends and bridesmaids, Ali and Lisa. The three young ladies give a really fun performance of "Honey, Honey."
Guest performers Mia Fryvecind Gimenez and Lara Hayhurst (through the Actor's Equity Association) are Donna's best friends Rosie and Tanya. Both inject a lot of humor and friendship into the roles. Hayhurst portrays the high maintenance and flirtatious Tanya wonderfully, especially in "Does Your Mother Know." One of the more entertaining songs in the second act is definitely Rosie's (Gimenez) aggressive flirtation of Bill in "Take a Chance on Me."
Resident performer Rory Schrobilgen is sweet and lovable as Sophie's fiancé, Sky.
Mamma Mia's enchanting story and larger-than life songs would mot have been half a good with out the additional cast.
With a range of roughly 20 ABBA songs, "Mamma Mia!" is like one large disco-dance party. Ranging from sweet and loving, emotional and sad, to down right fun, the music will have people struggling not to sing along. Whether an ABBA fan or not, many may recognize great songs such as "Mamma Mia," "Honey, Honey," "Dancing Queen," "S.O.S.," "Money, Money, Money," and much more. By the end of the play, audience members will be more than ready to get up and dance.
This wonderful music would not be possible without the orchestra, directed conducted by Michael McBride. The orchestra include McBride on keyboard one; Mark Miller on keyboard two; Deanna Deal on keyboard three; Patrick Holocomb on drums/percussion; Lev Caruso on guitar; Glen O'Fallon on bass.
For his first time at TLP, Shane Hall does a great job as director and choreographer for "Mamma Mia!"
The production would not have been possible without the hard work of: Scenic Designer Whitney Lehn Meltz; Costume Designer Katelin Anderson; Lighting Designer Cameron L. Strandin; Sound Designer Kristina Parker; Props Designer Mitchell Snow; Wig and Make-up Designer Jasmine Elam, Production Stage Manager Laura Krouch and crews.
Whether a fan of ABBA or not, TLP's production of "Mamma Mia" is a musical to "take a chance on."
"Mamma Mia!" runs through Sunday, Aug. 4. Tickets are available online at timberlakeplayhouse.org or by calling the box office at 815-244-2035.