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How ‘Mamma Mia’ at the Arts Center will get your feet moving

The cast of “Mamma Mia” at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina.
The cast of “Mamma Mia” at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina. Submitted photo

An enthusiastic opas (a Greek expression of joy and gratitude) to everybody involved in the opening night performance of “Mamma Mia” in the Elizabeth Wallace Theater of the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina.

The first opa goes to New York director Casey Colgan, who brought so much to this dazzling production. Colgan is also an actor, singer, dancer and choreographer.

More opas should go to the blue-ribbon cast, the leads and the ensemble. They acted, they sang and they danced and they were simply spot-on.

Another should go to Alec Varcas for his jaw-dropping choreography and dancing, and to the musicians under the direction of Bradley Vieth.

Others should go to ABBA, the award-winning group from Sweden and their show-stopping songs and playwright Caroline Johnson for the book which detailed a particularly unique wedding on a Greek island in the Aegean sea.

The show, which premiered originally almost 20 years ago, is one of the longest running productions in the country. Revisited and reimagined in some ways, the Tony-nominated musical on our stage remains fresh, energetic, vibrant, and full of sparkle and color with just the right balance of comedy and sincerity.

“Mamma Mia” follows the youthful focus of the 20-year-old Sophie (Katie LaDuca) who is planning her idyllic wedding to Sky (Nick Walker Jones). Sophie’s mother, Donna (Gabrielle Mirabella) has been raising her on this tiny Greek island single-handedly for all of her 20 years and quite without the participation of husbands, known or unknown.

Complications develop when we find that Sophie, determined to have the kind of wedding that requires a father to walk her down the aisle, has taken steps to ensure her father be there. What we learn is that Sophie has found in her mother’s diary entries about three men, all missing in action, for those 20 corresponding years. It is clearly unclear which of the three might be her father.

Complications continue when we find that Sophie has mailed invitations to each of the three — Bill Austin (Jeff Applegate), Sam Carmichael (Sean McDermott), and Harry Bright (Peter Simon Hilton.) She believes in her young heart of hearts that she would recognize her “real” father.

Some of the most fun scenes were those with Donna’s BFFs. Rosie (Shannon Lee Jones), Tanya (Kim Shriver), and Donna shared an early beginning when they were a performing trio “Donna and the Dynamos,” a pop-rockish act more than 20 years ago. In moments, their friendship and loyalty was fully back in place. You will love every minute of “Money, Money, Money,” “Chiquitita,” and, of course, “Dancing Queen” and “Super Trooper” with the phenomenal female ensemble.

Sophie is supported, too, by her good friends. Look forward to Lisa (Kahaliz Davis) and Ali (Sydney Alise) in “Honey, Honey.”

The men in the production were also fully in place. Of course, the “I Do, I Do, I Do,” with Sam, Donna and the ensemble; “Lay All Your Love on Me,” with Sky, Sophie and the male ensemble; and especially “Thank you for the Music,” with Sophie, Sam, Harry and Bill, remind us of the quality of their manly participation.

Our opening-night audience was completely engaged from the very first notes of the overture right through to the encore, the Mega Mix. We were happily on our feet, singing and dancing right along.

Artist, musician, teacher and writer Nancy K. Wellard focuses on portraying and promoting the cultural arts, first in Los Angeles and, for close to 30 years, in the Lowcountry. Email her at nancykwellard@gmail.com.

If you go:

  • What: “Mamma Mia,” through Aug. 6
  • Where: Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, 14 Shelter Cove Lane
  • For more information: ARTSHHI.COM or call 843-842-ARTS (2728)
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