Director Marc Jacobs Gives Us an Idyllic Summer of Love
by Carly Van Liere
In our constant assault of breaking news and conflict around every corner, we need some time off to remember fun in the sun. Well, we found it at Center REP. “Mamma Mia!” gives us love, friendship, spectacular visual aesthetics, and blissfully nostalgic ABBA tunes.
The story revolves around twenty-year-old Sophie (radiant Giana Gambardella), who aims to invite her biological father to her wedding. But when she consults her mother’s diary from the year she was born, Sophie discovers three possible dads. Her solution? Invite them all!
Bright, beachy aesthetics frame the mother-daughter chaos that unfolds on their Greek island. Designer Kelly James Tighe’s stage set shimmers with bright blue-painted Santorini domes, a mountainous coastline, and glowing windows in distant houses as the sun goes down.
Kurt Landisman’s lighting design reflects the ocean waves in psychedelic colors. Maggi Yule’s vibrant and flattering costumes capture Mediterranean summer with flowing sundresses and Hawaiian shirts. Sparkly jumpsuits emerge like disco balls at a dance party. Jeff Mockus’ sound design has us tapping our feet.
Gambardella’s Sophie oozes genuine discovery and enchantment. She marvels at each fatherly possibility as the clueless dudes arrive on the island, and trigger our nostalgia for young love, as she frolics the beach on the eve of her wedding.
Sophie’s cool mom Donna (sympathetic Lynda DiVito) respects her daughter’s engagement, despite her own sexually adventurous youth. DiVito brings a poised sense of humility to Donna; we feel her embarrassment as she hides from her three former lovers.
Donna’s two besties cavort with silly antics and rockin’ vocals, to cheer up their humiliated friend. Calm and collected, but with a wild streak, Rosie (fiery Leanne Borghesi) adds reason and spunk to the mix. Sultry Tonya (hilarious Alison Quin) wears big sunglasses, dragging a comically large suitcase.
Swatting away younger suitors, Tonya channels Samantha from Sex and the City. When Tonya and Rosie join Donna for hits like “Dancing Queen” and “Super Trouper,” they bring the house down with killer voices. Their years of friendship with Donna make us smile, as they all embrace.
We live in an extreme society. Relationships totter and barriers rise with polarizing rhetoric. “Mamma Mia!” reminds us of acceptance, love, and understanding, belting our favorite dance tunes along the way. Marc Jacobs’ “Mamma Mia!” is a tight show with stunning visuals and moving performances all around. I want to see it again!
“Mamma Mia!” music, lyrics by Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, book by Catherine Johnson, directed by Marc Jacobs, at Center REPertory Company, Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, California, through Sunday, October 7, 2018. Info: centerREP.org
Cast: Giana Gambardella, Chelsey Ristaino, Leah Parris, Lynda DiVito, Alison Quin, Leanne Borghesi, Sean Okuniewicz, Josh Ditto, Keaton Wilkerson, Mark Farrell,
Keith Pinto, Noel Anthony, Scott Woodard, Kevin Michael Gruwell, Mary Kalita, Larissa Kelloway, Julia Ludwig, Lauren Meyer, Andrew Mondello, and Alex Moore.