Mamma Mia, my, my how can I resist a big fat summer hit at Capital Rep?! For years Capital Rep has brought in fun smaller productions for the summer. Last year A Night with Janis Joplin rocked the rep, two years ago the theatre was inhabited by two funny piano playing storytellers in Murder for Two, and a few years back you could attend the prom with the Marvelous Wonderettes. Go back a few more years and you may remember the funny summer of Menopause the Musical. Each of these shows has been fun, many popular off-Broadway hits but the Rep took a big risk, by investing in a big, splashy, jukebox musical and it paid off.
Don't get me wrong The Rep has no problem going modern - A Christmas Story the Musical was a hoot. They have no problem producing classic musicals. Hopefully you saw Camelot or Gypsy and I'd put my money on She Love's Me (coming later this year). However, it is a little outside of the norm of Cap Rep to put on a show of this size and simplicity. It's fun, it's wonderful, and it's here for a month!
The intimate feel of the rep helps the show in two ways. 1 - It creates the perfect space for the ABBA tuner. 2 - The intimate space allows the more emotional moments and scenes to dive deeper.
The story tells the tale of Sophie Sheridan a young woman living on a Grecian island with her single mother, Donna. About to marry and struggling without knowing who her father is, Sophie finds her mother's diary and invites all three men to attend the wedding hoping she'll out which one is her dad. The lights blast, the Abba music plays, and all hilarity and anarchy breaks loose.
As the lights come up on Brian Prather's dazzling set, Christina Carlucci takes the stage to tell you Sophie's tale. Carlucci has an angelic voice and top-notch dance skills to add. Ms. Carlucci brings pure heart to the role and seems to be having the time of her life on stage.
Lyn Philistine plays Carlucci's onstage mother, Donna. Philistine has the beauty of Whitney Cummings and the voice of a rock star. In fact from her first moments on the stage that's exactly how Lyn approaches the role, an old rock star fighting for her life (in a semi-lite manner). Philistine has a challenging role - balancing the heartbreak of her old beaus, the fear of losing her daughter to marriage, and staying in the right headspace while everyone else on stage gets to party non-stop. This winner takes it all and leaves nothing on the stage.
Speaking of leaving it on the stage - This truly is an ensemble piece, so many great leading players telling their tales together. Each member of the cast is sensational BUT two steal the show.
Those scenes stealers are Kara Mikula and Carla Woods as Tanya's best friends, Rosie and Tanya, respectively.
Mikula returns to the rep after chewing up the scenery in the Rep's production of A Christmas Story. Summer is about fun and laughter - you get two for the price of one with Mikula. Comedy is not her only talent though, no. Mikula is a triple threat that dances the night away, sings beautifully, and finds a few nuanced moments that truly showoff her acting skills. When Kara sprints around the stage with Brian Cali performing the number "take a chance on me" you're sure to bust a gut laughing and tapping along.
Woods plays the sexy and sultry friend Tanya. Ms. Woods is simply FANTASITC! You'll love her. To put it simply, she is fierce and fun! Her voice is remarkable; she can dance and act, and give you a great mix of heart and tenacity all in one. Carla's big second act number "Does your mother know" has always been a favorite, especially in this production.
There are four men vying for love and attention of the Sheridan women and each is phenomenal. Gil Brady's a little sexy and a little fun, and his rendition of Sam singing, "knowing me and knowing you" is a joy. Brian Cali brings so much joy to the role of Bill, the adventurer. Gary Lindemann returns to The Rep as Harry, and if he doesn't warm you're heart during his rendition of "our last summer" you may not be at the right show. These three men play will together - their finale costumes are to-die-for.
Then there's the young love of Sophie's - Sky, played by the very attractive and very talented Patton Chandler. To say Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill took full advantage of Mr. Chandler's physique is an understatement. When he and Carla Carlucci tussle across the stage performing "Lay all your love on me", it's the perfect blend of sex appeal and comedy. They're sexy, they're funny, and it's pretty fun!
Talk about fun and sexy - the costumes by Howard Tsvi Kaplan are just that. The lighting design by Travis McHale is fun and lively - just wonderful. The set designed by Brian Prather is wonderful - it pays homage to the Broadway production, the summer feel, Greece and fits beautifully in the Rep. To Mr. Prather's credit this makes the show and space feel twice as big.
A final accolade and thank you to Producing Artistic Director of The Rep and Director of the production, Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill. Thank you Maggie for bringing this big, splashy show to the perfect home. Thank you for bringing some light-hearted fun to downtown Albany. Bravo.
Do yourself a favor - Discover Albany - have a good cry on night at the Park Playhouse production of Ragtime then go see Mamma Mia the next day at The Rep and dance the night away!
Cap Rep has done it well this summer - go laugh, cheer, and dance along at Mamma Mia. You'll know the songs, you'll love the show, and you won't regret it!