Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Mamma Mia!
Walnut Street Theatre Company
Review by Rebecca Rendell | Season Schedule

Also see Rebecca's review of The Prince and the Pauper

Charis Leos, Anne Brummel, and Lyn Philistine
Photo by Mark Garvin
What do you get when you take the greatest hits from Swedish super group ABBA, add a simple upbeat plot, lots of dancing, and a smattering of naughty jokes? One of the most popular jukebox musical of all time. Mamma Mia! opened in London in 1999, ran on Broadway from 2001-2015, and was made into a movie starring Meryl Streep in 2008. They say that on any given day, there are at least seven performances of Mamma Mia! taking place around the world. Fortunately for ABBA fans young and old, Walnut Street Theatre is presenting Mamma Mia! in an all-new production featuring new staging and original choreography by director and choreographer Richard Stafford.

Young Sophie Sheridan (Laura Giknis is adorably energetic) is getting married tomorrow, but she has more on her mind than most brides. In an attempt to determine the identity of her father, Sophie has raided her mom's old diary and invited three potential dads (Jonas Cohen is sweetly endearing, Christopher Sutton is hilarious, and Eric Kunze is dreamy) to the wedding. Single mom Donna (a formidable Anne Brummel) is trying to run her hotel and get ready for the wedding when the trio appears, bringing back memories of younger days and a fresh dose of heartache.

The high energy first act shimmies, bops and grooves exactly as it should. Yes, the acting is inconsistent (Schyler Conaway's performance as fiance Sky is particularly strained) and the skilled dance ensemble is never quite in sync, but none of that matters much when you are singing along to ABBA's greatest hits and swaying in the aisles. Gail Baldoni's dazzling array of costume designs are brilliant and Jack Mehler's lighting makes the whole theater feel like a party. Donna's sidekicks Rosie (Charis Leos) and Tanya (Lyn Philistine) bring some serious sass and lots of laughs to the stage. Leos' "Take a Chance on Me" and Philistine's "Does Your Mother Know" are fabulous numbers in an otherwise slow second act. A long string of songs, in which the chorus sings only from offstage and the tone waxes too serious, is primarily to blame for the lag. Things pick up again near the close and the night ends on a high note with a buoyant dance and sing-along medley featuring the entire ensemble. It is a finale good enough to make even the most jaded theatergoer stand up and dance.

Mamma Mia!, through July 22, 2018, at the Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut Street, Philadelphia PA. For tickets call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787 or visit or Ticketmaster.

Sophie Sheridan: Laura Giknis*
Ali: Tara Tagliaferro*
Lisa: Kathryn Miller*
Donna Sheridan: Anne Brummel*
Tanya: Lyn Philistine*
Rosie: Charis Leos*
Sky: Schyler Conaway*
Pepper: Brett-Marco Glauser*
Eddie: Billy D. Hart*
Harry Bright: Jonas Cohen*
Bill Austin: Christopher Sutton*
Sam Carmichael: Eric Kunze*
Father Alexandrios: Christopher Deprophetis*
Ensemble: Evan Autio*, Anthony Avino, Christopher Deprophetis*, Taylor Fields, Brett-Marco Glauser*, Billy D. Hart*, Jesse Jones*, Cody Knable*, Adam Mandala*, Kimberly Maxson, Kathryn Miller*, Owen Pelesh*, Kristyn Pope*, Taylor Elise Rector*, Kristi Smith, Tara Tagliaferro*, Jet Thomas

Director and Choreographer: Richard Stafford
Music and Vocal Director: John Daniels
Scenic Design: Peter Barbieri
Lighting Design: Jack Mehler
Costume Design: Gail Baldoni
Sound Design: David Temby
* Denotes membership in Actors' Equity Association, the professional union of Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.