DHT’s ‘Mamma Mia!’ – ABBAsolutely Delightful!
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a fan of Mamma Mia!, both of the stage and film versions. Having seen the film starring the iconic Meryl Streep in theaters literally six times, in addition to its tour here back in 2010 twice, and once at London’s West End, there’s no discounting how great a show this one is. When I heard Hawaii would be premiering it as the first community theatre in the nation, I knew I’d have to audition for it. And if that didn’t work out, I’d sponsor it, which I did. And, I’m glad I did because the show is an energetic, wonderful delight.
Local Kimee Balmilero, who made her Broadway debut in the show back in 2001, takes reign as director, who assembled a marvelous cast. Sarah Halford, who, after a period of time in Hollywood where she can be seen in TV shows such as Cristela and Anger Management and was last seen on the DHT stage as Maria in The Sound of Music (2010), returns to her local roots as Sophie, a 20-year-old young lady about to get married. The problem is, she wants her dad to give her away, and she has three possible fathers. After finding her mother Donna’s (a splendid Alison Aldcroft) diary from 21 years ago, she secretly invites them in hopes of discovering whom the true one is. Suitably playing the roles of the fathers are Neil Scheibelhut (Sam), LeGrand Lawrence (Bill), and Thomas Johnson (Harry). Adding to the scene and providing comedic footing are Tanya (Liz Stone) and Rosie (Stacey Pulmano), Donna’s “back-ups” who find themselves enamored by the Greek locals as well as serving as “aunts” to Sophie. And, while Sophie thinks she’ll quickly figure out who her actual father is, she soon learns that solving the mystery isn’t as easy as she’d hoped.
Balmilero has assembled a cast in which each member is skilled in their craft, but there are three standouts: Aldcroft, Halford, and Reyn Halford, a smaller character who plays the infatuated-with-Tanya Pepper. Halford as Sophie is the quintessential casting choice, as she exudes the perfect amount of vivacity and ferocity as a girl so determined to find not only her father, but herself. And, while she isn’t on stage for the entirety of the show, her presence and performance certainly permeates within every scene. After a six-year absence from the DHT stage, it’s nice to see her back where she seamlessly fits. Her brother Reyn, while not a prominent character of the show, is the unsung hero, as he generates cheers and laughs from the audience with his athleticism and acrobatics, doing handstands, front flips, and charming his way into Tayna’s heart. He was last seen performing similar antics as Pseudolus in MVT’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Finally, Aldcroft, last seen as Mother Superior in Sister Act, delivers a sublime performance as Donna. While “only” playing the constantly-worrisome mother not so keen on her daughter’s wedding, she always remains on her game, sometimes even appearing in back-to-back numbers belting out chicken skin-inducing notes, notably in “The Winner Takes It All.” And, while I am a huge fan of Streep and her rendition of the role in the film, Aldcroft certainly “takes it all.”
Yes, the cast is top-notch, and adding to that is the spicy choreography provided by the accomplished Mark Kanemura, known for his appearance on So You Think You Can Dance, in addition to working with pop stars, namely Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez, Janet Jackson, and Katy Perry. And, as usual, musical director Phil Hidalgo directs an orchestra which literally has the audience dancing on its feet by the end of the show. “Thank you for the music,” Phil!
Overall, DHT’s Mamma Mia! is a delight. I’ve seen three different versions of it, and this production doesn’t disappoint. The cast is comprised of “super troupers” who take on fierce choreography. The show just opened and runs through August 14. Don’t let the opportunity to see this Hawaii premiere slip through your fingers, and take a chance on this show by letting your dancing queen out!
Cheyne Nomura is reviews editor for Hitting The Stage. A teacher by day at Damien Memorial, you might also sometimes find him on the Diamond Head Theatre stage… or in NYC catching some Broadway shows.