PHOTO PROVIDED - Kassi McGregor as Sophie and Eric Elligott as Sky, center, face an imposing wedding, family drama and challenging choreography with the aid of a lively ensemble.
COTTAGE GROVE – The Cottage Theater invites audiences to float away to a fabulous Greek island wedding adventure as they enjoy Mamma Mia, a high-energy musical, featuring hit songs from the pop group ABBA, running from April 1-24.
Originally premiering on the West End in 1999, the jukebox musical, “Mamma Mia,” became an instant classic in the world of theater. Producing and performing the show was no easy accomplishment, but the Cottage Theater cast and crew completed the daunting task with ease.
Mamma Mia is the Cottage Theater’s debut performance after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, two weeks before opening, they learned they’d be unable to perform due to the lockdown. “We’re a community theater and we’re all about the magic that happens when you bring the audience and actors together at the same time for a live performance. That’s the piece that feeds our souls, and that’s what we’ve been starving for for two years!” said Susan Goes, executive director for the Cottage Theater.
The show tells the story of Donna Sheridan (Tracy Nygard) who owns and operates a villa hotel, and her daughter, who is about to be married. Using clues in her mom’s diary entries, Sophie Sheridan (Kassi McGregor) invites three possible fathers back to the remote island they visited two decades ago, hoping to identify her dad in time to walk her down the aisle. Sophie’s three dads include architect Sam Carmichael (Joshua Carlton), travel writer Bill Austin (John Wilson), and banker Harry Bright (Joshua Sayre).
The wedding reunites Donna with her best friends and former “Donna and the Dynamos” bandmates – Tanya (Jennifer Mandeville-Schulz) and Rosie (Janet Rust). The ensemble cast also includes Sophie’s bridesmaids, Ali (Madeline Paige) and Lisa (Stefhani Anderson), fiancé Sky (Eric Elligott), and Sky’s friends, Pepper (Matt Arscott) and Eddie (Aislinn Wright Mirsch). Father Alexandrios was played by Tom Perkins, whose lispy and dry humor brought a much-needed reprieve to the show’s tense climax.
The chorus, though small, were mighty. They were in sync both energetically and rhythmically, which was especially evident in numbers like the fast-paced “Voulez-Vous” and “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” The technical aspects of this show helped to further transport the audience to the glimmering fictional island of Kalokairi with the rotating sets that were charming and realistic, proving that the crew were “masters of the scene” in combination with the unique lighting choices to make an interesting take on the oceanic paradise.
Tracy Nygard enraptured the audience with her powerful, goosebump-inducing vocals and skillful acting. Nygard took the role above and beyond, fully immersing into the dynamic arc of her character and creating incredible chemistry with her fellow castmates. Janet Rust sent the audience into fits of laughter with an exaggerated physicality as fluid and vibrant as the water of the Aegean Sea and her sweet, strong tone. Rust’s performance also complemented Jennifer Mandeville-Schulz’s portrayal of Tanya, with more controlled acting choices and delightfully vibrato voice.
Joshua Sayre as Harry, charmed the audience with his smooth voice. This was in direct opposition to Aislinn Wright Mirsch and Matt Arscott, who were the goofy comedic duo of the night, running off each other’s ridiculous “bro-like” energy throughout their scenes. Eric Elligott’s version of Sky added a laid-back, blissful charm that helped foster that whimsical sense of love between Sky and Sophie, especially present in numbers like “Lay All Your Love on Me.”
“Some of this cast auditioned more than two years ago,” Goes said. “But all of them have been rehearsing while seats were being installed, carpet was being laid, or while fire alarms were being tested.
“I really want to acknowledge them rehearsing and putting this wonderful show together during these challenging circumstances.”
“So, I say thank you for the music” for the Cottage Theater’s vivacious version of Mamma Mia! and for taking the audience on a nostalgic Greek adventure where everyone ended up “smiling, having fun, and feeling like a number one.”
IF YOU GO:
What: Mamma Mia
When: Through April 24
Where: Cottage Grove Theater, 700 Village Dr.
Tickets: Go to cottagetheater.org or call 541-942-8001. Adults $27, Youth (18 & under) $15. Gift certificates and paperless tickets are also available for purchase online.