KAYSVILLE — Mamma Mia!, the jukebox musical of ABBA music, hit the London stage in 1999 and has been a popular sensation ever since, still running in London and lasting 14 years on the Broadway stage before closing in 2015. It has resulted in many popular touring productions and a major motion picture and sequel. This year, the rights have been made available for local theaters to mount this production, and the community has responded by putting this show in the season for numerous theaters this year. Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville is one of the first to take advantage of this light-hearted musical with familiar tunes.
The story follows a young Sophie, played by Hannah Olsen, as she prepares for her wedding to Sky, played by Stefan Kurzius. Raised by her single mother, Donna, played by Jan Williams, Sophie does not know her father. After reading her mother’s diary, Sophie finds out she has three possible dads, and hilarity ensues as she invites all three to her wedding and they interact with Donna and her two best friends, Rosie played by Missy Riffle, and Tonya, played by Brittany Carroll.
Olsen has a very strong voice, and her portrayal of a young girl wanting to have a perfect wedding was authentic. Kurzius had a strong voice, too, but struggled more during the scenes, with several missed lines and a flat affect. This same issue plagued several players and scenes, where the acting was too labored and mechanic, leaving me wishing for more songs and less dialogue. When Donna and Sam, one of the men who could be Sophie’s dad played by Brent Sloan, first interact, Donna appears to be angry but her reactions are not met by much but muted concern from Sam as Sloan. Williams played a strong Donna, but had moments where the strain of the vocals seemed to get to her. I am not sure if she was ill, but it was slightly distracting in some of the bigger songs, such as, “The Winner Takes It All.” Riffle and Carroll, playing Donna’s best friends, were delightful, with Riffle as Rosie having a very charismatic personality that was evident in fun numbers such as, “Dancing Queen,” and, “Take a Chance on Me,” while Carroll played the vixen role well in the song, “Does Your Mother Know.” The character of Harry, played by Andrew Cole, turned out to be a surprising favorite for me. Cole used a charming British accent and his clear, beautiful vocals made the song, “Our Last Summer,” my favorite of the evening.
Musically, this production of Mamma Mia was done quite well. Musical director Andrea Fife did an excellent job getting the chorus members to have strong harmonies and good energy throughout the production. Some of the more popular numbers, songs like, “Dancing Queen,” and, “Super Trooper,” were clear favorites. In addition, the choreography by Kassidy Gull was paired well with the popular music to keep the musical numbers a highlight of the evening.
Past Hopebox shows I’ve seen have had difficulties utilizing the space properly for the set, but the set for this production, which was not credited in the program, was a good match for both the show and the space. The nice blue and white colors opened up the stage, while the minimization of the set opened up the space for the cast to move and dance. The lighting by Derek Raynor added to the mood, changing colors to match the songs and point in the story.
Costuming was designed by Kathy Richmond, and some of touches were really fun, such as the costumes the ladies wear in the song, “Super Trooper,” but some of the other choices, such as the fast costume changes that did not happen quick enough made the show a bit choppy.
The first time I saw a production of Mamma Mia!, the best part of the show was watching the cast have a great time on stage. This production at the Hopebox was no different. The story is certainly cheesy, and the show is rather two dimensional, but it seems to be a lot of fun to be a part of. Additionally, the Hopebox has a great mission to support people with cancer by donating proceeds to a person who is needing financial assistance with treatment. Considering the actresses playing Donna and her friends were also cancer survivors, the Hopebox mission added a nice touch to the evening. I am impressed with the mission of the Hopebox Theatre and the way they use the arts to benefit others. Mamma Mia is a fun show to help move their mission forward.