FOND DU LAC, Wis. (WFRV) – A leading candidate for the catchiest of all musicals feeds on the infectious rhythms of ABBA.
Fond du Lac Community Theatre is going at “Mamma Mia!” in a big way on the spacious stage of Fond du Lac Performing Arts Center. One performance remains at 2 p.m. today, Sunday, June 26.
Many of the songs in “Mamma Mia!” were popular in the 1970s and beyond before the show came to the stage.
Around a bunch of those hits a story is woven that’s a bit “out there” and a bit earthy: Twenty-one years after a summer of love on a Greek isle, a mother’s daughter aims to get married and invite the father she never met. From her mother’s diary, three secretive dot-dot-dots give her possibilities. She invites all the dot-dot-dots. The show contains other double-entendre meanings, too.
At Saturday night’s performance, enthusiasm was in the air for the songs, the dances, the costuming and the performances. It was a sign that directors Maggie Patton and Mary Runde and their creative collaborators put this complex show together well.
Julie Walber portrays Donna Sheridan, the single mother whose past as an entertainer included one-nighters. Wink, wink. The story is about liberties of various kinds. Julie Walber’s climactic song is “The Winner Takes It All,” which is filled with Donna’s gumption, sureness and determination.
Blair Moon portrays Sophie Sheridan, the conflicted daughter. Sophie is a bundle of wondering, not only about who is her father but her impending crossroads with her nice-guy finance. Blair Moon’s carefully sung thoughts open and close the show on a sensitive note.
Bekki Feishelson Kuber and Sue Kemp portray Donna’s feisty colleagues from showbiz semi-stardom, Tanya and Rosie, respectively. The two colorfully weave into Donna’s story while splashing action of their own.
Dancing is a character, often by a throng. Bekki Feishelson Kuber doubles as choreographer, and she has two assistants for sometimes seas of action under a mirror glass disco ball. The three encore numbers are juiced up with music and dance action with the leading players wearing poke-in-the-eye gaudy/sparkly costumes.
ABBA’s hit-fueled songs often sweep the show along. The story gets a bit deep-thinky in the second act before the ABBA splash resumes.
Sophie is visited by two friends (Kimberly Burgert and Joey Kunde), who arrive in a wave of girlish giggles. The three get the hits going with “Honey, Honey.”
When Donna is visited her friends Tanya and Rosie, the three light fire to “Dancing Queen.” And their “Super Trouper” near the end of the first act comes with costuming luster. Tanya and Rosie have side stories of their own as their characters look for love. Tanya’s “Take a Chance on Me” shows how musical theater can give added meaning to a song.
Sophie and eventually Donna are visited by the three men – architecture-minded Sam Carmichael (Joe Kemp), hipster turned banker Harry Bright (John Matysik) and world adventurer Bill Austin (Jeffrey Werdin). The men don’t know each other and don’t know they could be a parental unit. The solid players/good singers deal with a lot of churn suddenly thrust on their characters.
Visiting Sophie’s intended, Sky (Ian Hawkins), are Sky’s fun-minded, booze-minded buddies. Somehow fitting is a guy dance romp in swim fins with support dancers in colorful dive suits. Sky in a full wedding gown? That’s a Sophie nightmare.
“Mamma Mia!” has so many popular songs that thrive on backup singing and danceability that nobody seems to mind that singing/dancing ensembles materialize at will around the main characters.
The main thing is the show with an outrageous story dishes out entertainment in flashy ways.
After being put off for two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this elaborate production seems to have extra oomph in finally being done – and seen.
Running time: Two hours, 36 minutes
Remaining performance: 2 p.m. June 26
Creative: Music and lyrics – Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus, with some songs with Stig Anderson; book – Catherine Johnson; conception – Judy Craymer; directors – Maggie Patton, Mary Runde; choreographer – Bekki Fishelson Kuber; assistant choreographers – Kimberly Burgert, Cody Lindau; vocal director – Patricia Eby; stage manager – Rhea Behlke; assistant stage manager – Wendy Koepp; costume designer – Julie Walbur; assistant costumer – Cody Lindau; set design – Alex Konen; props and set dresser – Stephanie Phillips, Claudia Winland; sound designer – Jason Fridley; lighting design – Carcheri Gingrasso, Nora Otte, Steve Wilson
Donna Sheridan – Julie Walber
Sophie Sheridan – Blair Moon
Tanya – Bekki Fishelson Kuber
Rosie – Sue Kemp
Sam Carmichael – Joe Kemp
Harry Bright – John Matysik
Bill Austin – Jeffrey Werdin
Lisa – Kimberly Burgert
Ali – Joey Kunde
Sky – Ian Hawkins
Pepper – Cody Lindau
Eddie – Tony Secord
Ensemble – Lucia Arellano, Kelsey Carter, Cathy Drew, Bernadette Ericksen, Jack Eyers, Rose Guelig, Ben Hansen, John Hawkins, Marianna Leventhal, Lynn Moon, Nora Otte, Tim Patton, Wendy Pelletier, Isabel Pieper, Chase Propson, Dallas Prouty, Anna Quast, Meadow Ray, Kurt Schuller, Erin Steward, Gwendolyn Williams, Elizabeth Wustrack, Elijah Zuhlke
Overture – Band
“I Have a Dream” – Sophie
“Honey, Honey” – Sophie, Ali, Lisa
“Money, Money, Money” – Donna, Ensemble
“Thank You for the Music” – Harry, Bill, Sam, Sophie
“Mamma Mia” – Donna, Harry, Bill, Sam, Ensemble
“Chiquitita” – Rosie, Tanya, Donna
“Dancing Queen” – Rosie, Tanya, Donna
“Lay All Your Love on Me” – Sophie, Sky, Pepper, Eddie, Ensemble
“Super Trouper” – Donna, Tanya, Rosie, Ensemble
“Gimme, Gimme, Gimme (A Man After Midnight)” – Sophie, Ali, Lisa, Sam, Bill, Harry, Ensemble
“The Name of the Game” – Sophie, Bill
“Voulez-Vous” – Sky, Pepper, Eddie, Ensemble
Entr’acte – Band
“Under Attack” – Sophie, Ensemble
“One of Us” – Donna
“S.O.S.” – Sam, Donna
“Does Your Mother Know?” – Tanya, Pepper, Harry, Rosie, Lisa, Ali, Bill, Ensemble
“Knowing Me, Knowing You” – Sam
“Our Last Summer” – Donna, Harry
“Slipping Through My Fingers” – Donna, Sophie
“The Winner Takes It All” – Donna
“Take a Chance on Me” – Rosie, Bill
“I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do” – Sam, Donna, Rosie, Tanya, Ensemble
“I Have a Dream” (reprise) – Sophie
“Mamma Mia” – Ensemble
“Dancing Queen” – Donna, Tanya, Rosie, Ensemble
“Waterloo” – Donna, Tanya, Rosie, Ensemble
NEXT: “Frozen Jr.” musical, July 28-31, Goodrich Little Theatre.
THE VENUE: Fond du Lac Performing Arts Center in Fond du Lac High School is an eye full. Holding 1,032 seats, the auditorium consists seating on two levels on the main floor, plus in a balcony and second-level box seats. Wood – for acoustic purposes – is emphasized on walls, box seat fronts, stage front and acoustical clouds in the ceiling. Seats include black plastic backs, wood arms and red fabric seating areas. Aisles are of tan carpeting. For “Mamma Mia,” the band performs on stage to the left of the audience. The theater auditorium space looks important to the community – in other words, built for something beyond school purposes. That thought carries through to the commons, which is kind of a lobby beyond the theater’s lobby, which features original artwork in many places. The outside of the commons is a giant, curving glass wall – a striking image. Inside, notable features beyond spaciousness are murals, with one being of historical moments in the city’s history and the other, in two parts and high up, a panorama of the area that’s probably more than 100 feet long. The building dates to 2001.