This past Friday night, the Connecticut Repertory Theatre kicked off its 2019 Nutmeg Summer Series with a charming production of the beloved musical “Mamma Mia!” Heartwarming performances and hysterical situations combined into the perfect musical to start off the summer.
Directed by Terrence Mann with choreography by Mary Ann Lamb and Jessica Walker, the CRT’s production of “Mamma Mia!” got toes to tap and hearts to melt. Energetic renditions of catchy ABBA songs like “Lay All Your Love on Me” and “Does Your Mother Know” incorporated a large ensemble of dancers and singers to turn these numbers into elaborate theatrical productions that were fun to see. Specifically, the ensemble’s kickline while wearing flippers during “Lay All Your Love on Me” was entertaining and showcased the effort and dedication that the cast and producers put into the show.
Also evident was the careful thought that went into the set design. Upon entering the theater, the audience saw a backdrop of white buildings with blue domed roofs. A speckled sort of light was cast on a blue wall and door to the left. Later on, three double-sided walls made up the interior and exterior of the villa. The ombre blue to white of the walls conjured images of the Greek isles. The set design was romantic with flower pots mounted on the exterior walls of the villa and string lights floating in from above during Sophie’s party.
Great casting choices also helped to make “Mamma Mia!” into an amusing production. Jennifer Cody stole the show as Rosie, Donna’s spunky friend. The way she played Rosie as lighthearted, sometimes bawdy comic relief was humorous, and she delivered some great one-liners, especially a comment about how Bill (Jaime Colburn) would know how to “pepper her snapper” after having read her cookbook.
Similarly, Lauren Blackman gave a memorable performance as the seductive, sassy Tanya. Her dominance over the men in the musical was on full display during her performance of “Does Your Mother Know,” but Blackman made sure that Tanya had more to her character than just sex appeal. She also made sure to deliver Tanya’s one-liners in a way that demonstrated her wit and self-confidence.
Though each actor was great individually, the cast a whole had a lot of chemistry to work with. Jessica Hendy (Donna), Cody and Blackman worked well together as Donna, Rosie and Tanya. They came off as old friends but with a burst of energy, doing their secret handshake multiple times throughout the musical. Additionally, Cody and Colburn were really able to play off of each other in their performance of “Take A Chance On Me” near the end of the musical. The two actors mimicked different life stages that they might go through as a couple to make the moment simultaneously endearing and hilarious. At one point, Cody stuffed a pillow under her shirt and pretended she was pregnant and having labor pains as Colburn acted like a concerned dad-to-be.
The musical ended with a rousing set of “Mamma Mia,” “Dancing Queen” and “Waterloo,” after which the audience gave a well-deserved standing ovation.
Feature image courtesy of Twitter / @DowntownStorrs
Stephanie Santillo is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.