Take a chance on me – a review of “Mamma Mia”

Mike Buzzelli

By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant

Sophie Sheridan (Alysia Vastardis) is getting hitched on a small, Greek isle. She wants her father to walk her down the aisle when she gets married. The problem is – Sophie doesn’t know who sired her. Her mother Donna (Stephanie Ottey) had three suitors twenty years ago; any one of them could have been Sophie’s dad. So, the bride invites all three possible biological fathers to her wedding in “Mamma Mia.”

Meanwhile Donna’s best friends – and backup singers from her heyday singing as “Donna and the Dynamos” – Tanya (Sara Barbisch) and Rosie (Missy Moreno) rush to the aid of the mother of the bride to prep for the big day.

Then, Sam Carmichael (George Heigel), Bill Austin (Nick Mitchell) and Harry Bright (Chris Martin) all show up on the island for Sophie’s impending nuptials. While the men are purportedly intelligent, none of them figure out why they were invited to the wedding (it takes the entire first act for them to work it out). Any one of them might be Sophie’s dad.

P.S. the bride did not tell her mother than she planned to bring the men to the island.

Chaos – and a lot of ABBA music – ensues.

The cast of “Mamma Mia” poses for a wedding photo at the end of the show.

The plot of “Mamma Mia” is flimsily framed around the songs of Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus (Benny and Bjorn are the two middle B’s in ABBA). If you have a favorite ABBA song, playwright Catherine Johnson has wedged it in somehow – sometimes – with a sledgehammer.

No one has ever gone to any musical for the plot, especially “Mama Mia.” It’s all about the singing and dancing, and “Mamma Mia” has oodles of singing and dancing. It’s infectious, effervescent and joyous.

There’s a lot of talent in this cheery, little production. Kudos to co-directors Stephen Santa and Drew Praskovich for mounting such an energetic show. It’s perfectly cast. They bring a lot of spectacle to it on a shoestring budget.

Vastardis belts out quite a few of the songs beautifully.

Donna transforms from downtrodden taverna owner to disco diva in a few pithy tunes, but Ottey makes it work. She’s a star. Her version of ‘The Winner Takes it all” is a showstopper.

Heigel matches her in intensity with “Knowing Me, Knowing You.” Heigel has been in many Stage 62 productions, but he finally gets a bit of the spotlight here, and he deserves every minute of it. He shines bright here.

Martin is always fun to watch. His character HB is supposed to be British, but the accent sort of comes and goes (maybe he’s just peppering his conversation with British words). He does, however, have impeccable comic timing.

Mitchell does a fine job as the intrepid explorer. His reactions to Moreno’s “Take a Chance on me” are so unbelievably stoic (he deserves an award for being nonplussed through the whole, sordid song).

Moreno is a comedic force of nature. Even the grumpiest of theater goers will guffaw at her antics. Major LOL’s resounded from almost every audience member.

Clayton Edwards and Ivan Bracy Jr. bring a lot of charm and personality to Pepper and Eddie, respectively.

There is kinetic choreography from Emily Christ and peppy tunes from the orchestra.

Shout out to the set designer Rob James for a stunning Aegean backdrop and gorgeous costumes by Jessica Kavanagh.

Take a chance…Take a chance…Take a chance…on “Mamma Mia.”


“Mama Mia” runs until July 28 at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, 300 Beechwood Avenue, Carnegie, PA 15106. For more information, click here.


One Reply to “Take a chance on me – a review of “Mamma Mia””

  1. Shout-out to the priest, too, who earned a hearty audience guffaw at a subtle but perfectly-timed reaction. The ensemble gave us some great moments!

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