Tuesday, June 4, 2019

'Mamma Mia!' here we go again at SJ Stage

Rosie (Jill Miller, left), Donna  (Adrienne Herro) and Tanya (Allison F. Rich) recall their  trio days. (Photo by Dave Lepori)
Anyone who saw Hillbarn Theatre’s recent production of “Mamma Mia!” had probably just stopped humming its bouncy tunes when along comes San Jose Stage’s production to implant them into their brains again.

As the lyrics to the title song go, “how can I resist ya?” it’s almost impossible to resist the memorable songs from ABBA, the Swedish pop group that started in the 1970s.

They include such toe-tappers as “Honey, Honey,” “Money, Money, Money,” “Dancing Queen,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and many more, mostly by ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus.

All of them are performed well by SJ Stage’s energetic cast as they form the outline for the book by Catherine Johnson.

The premise is this: Sophie Sheridan (Allison J. Parker) is about to be married to Sky (Sam Faustine). She wants her father to give her away, but she doesn’t know who he is.

Her unmarried mother, Donna (Adrienne Herro), owner of a taverna on a Greek island, refuses to talk about him. However, Sophie reads Donna’s diary entries from about the time she was conceived and finds three candidates.

Assuming she’ll know which one is her dad right away, she invites them to her wedding without telling Donna. They are Harry Bright (Keith Pinto), a British banker; Bill Austin (Jeffrey Brian Adams), an adventure writer; and Sam Carmichael (Noel Anthony), an architect.

Also arriving for the wedding are Donna’s friends, Rosie (Jill Miller) and Tanya (Allison F. Rich). The three had formed a girl group during the disco days.

Besides the music itself, much of the credit for this production’s success goes to Rich, who wears three hats. Besides playing the oft-married Tanya, she’s the show’s director and its vocal director. Associate musical director Martín Rojas Dietrich is part of the five-man, upstage band.

Pinto wears two hats by playing Harry and serving as choreographer. His choreography and Rich’s direction blend seamlessly. 

One ingenious device on their part involves the ensemble, whose members often wear masks as they dance to scenes like the overture and Sophie’s nightmare on the eve of her wedding. They also dance while they whisk set pieces in and out.

Among the standout performers are Parker as Sophie, Herro as Donna, Rich as Tanya, Miller as Rosie and Pinto as Harry.

Bethany Deal designed the costumes, including the disco trio’s spangled outfits. The set and lighting are by Michael Palumbo with sound by Steve Schoenbeck.

Running about two and a half hours with one intermission, “Mamma Mia!” will continue through July 7 at San Jose Stage Company, 490 S. First St., San Jose.

For tickets and information, call (408) 283-7142 or visit www.thestage.org.