AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music and lyrics by Benny Andersson
and Björn Ulvaeus with Stig Anderson
Book by Catherine Johnson
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd
Presented by American Musical Theatre of San Jose
San Jose Center for the Performing Arts
255 Almaden Blvd., San Jose / (408) 998-2277

Reviewed by Judy Richter

One of the 13 productions (10 permanent, three touring) of the 2000 hit musical "Mamma Mia!" is making a short stop at American Musical Theatre of San Jose. With its pulsating disco beat, it features songs by the popular '70s group ABBA woven together by book writer Catherine Johnson into the story of a young bride-to-be searching for her father. With music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Bjrn Ulvaeus plus some songs with Stig Anderson, it just bubbles along.

Twenty-year-old Sophie Sheridan (Bekah Nutt) lives on a small Greek island where her single mom, Donna (Lauren Mufson), owns a taverna. Shortly before the wedding, Sophie finds her mother's diary and learns that her father could be one of three men. Convinced that she will know which one is her father as soon as she sees him, she invites all three to her wedding. Among the other guests are Tanya (Lisa Mandel) and Rosie (Laura Ware), who were part of a '70s disco girls trio with Donna. Donna is upset when the three dad candidates -- Harry Bright (Ian Simpson), Bill Austin (Milo Shandel) and Sam Carmichael (Timothy Booth, filling in for Tony Clements) -- show up, but reconciles herself to their presence.

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd and designed by Mark Thompson, the production features a relatively simple unit set and some outrageous disco costumes, complemented by Howard Harrison's lighting. The sound -- too loud -- is by Andrew Bruce and Bobby Aitken. Musical supervision and arrangements are by Martin Koch. Martyn Axe conducts from the keyboard. Anthony Van Laast's choreography is mostly disco style with one clever number in which the dancers wear swim flippers. The cast is generally strong, especially Mufson as Donna and Mandel and Ware as her humorous pals. Nutt's voice is a bit thin, and Robert Adelman Hancock, who plays her fiance, Sky, seems a bit awkward. The three dad candidates are all enjoyable, establishing their different personalities.

Besides the title song, the polished show features such songs as "Dancing Queen," "Take a Chance on Me," "The Winner Takes It All," "Super Trouper" and 17 other ABBA hits -- all designed to send the audience away in high spirits.

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