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The Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre’s Mamma Mia

Come (if you can) for the play, stay for the party

photo by Alison Harbaugh, Sugar Farm Productions / From the moment that Sophie (Karlee Allen, center) steps out onto the blue-lit dock, the audience is transported to a Greek island for an evening of dancing, singing and fun.
     For their end of summer blowout, The Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre has brought the magic of the Aegean to Maryland with Mamma Mia.
      From the moment that Sophie (Karlee Allen) steps out onto the blue-lit dock and wistfully sings I Have a Dream, the audience is transported to a Greek island for an evening of dancing, singing and fun.  
      In case you don’t know the story, Donna’s (Traci Denhardt) daughter, Sophie, is getting married and wants her father at her wedding. The problem is that there are three possible fathers: Sam Carmichael (Wayne Doyle), Bill Austin (John Andrew Rose) and Harry Bright (Josh Mooney). Sophie invites all three without telling Donna or the groom (Christian Zelaznog).
     Everyone comes including bridesmaids, Ali (Grace Mueller) and Lisa (Sierra Basilio) and groomsmen Pepper (Drew Looney) and Eddie (Devin Van Dine) and of course, Donna’s best friends and members of her girl band, Donna and the Dynamos, Rosie (Andrea Ostrowski Wildason) and Tanya (Alicia B. Sweeney). Chaos ensues, romances bloom, truths are told — and it all happens to the pop music of ABBA.
     Director Jennifer Cooper pulls all this together masterfully, allowing general merriment and chaos while focusing on intimate moments with individual actors to move the story forward.
     All of the actors deserve applause for this energy and professionalism, and particularly in this show for singing and dancing chops. Denhardt is the glue that holds everything together. Allen and Zelaznog are charming as the wedding couple. 
      A lot of the magic happens because of what we see on the stage. The beautiful Greek villa set complete with a boat dock jutting out into the audience was designed by Dan Snyder and scenic artist Jacob Cordell and the team of set builders, Todd Croteau, Tom Cagle, Nick Beschen, Jim Degeneffe, Tod Wildason, Madison Doyle, Kai Earnest and the Grizzle family – Aria, Bianca and Robert. Lighting by John H. Purnell and assistant lighting designer Jennifer Smith evokes the harsh daylight and dusky twilight of an island.
     When the disco lights start and the mirror ball twirls, the audience gets the signal to join in and they do, singing along to the well-known tunes and doing a fair amount of seat dancing.
     The star of Mamma Mia is, of course, the music of ABBA. Music director Jessica Deskin, along with vocal captain Kirsti Dixon, sound designer Bill Reinhardt and assistant sound designer David Cooper, manage beautifully. From the rousing Money, Money, Money and Voulez, Vous to Sophie’s wistful I Have a Dream that begins and ends the play, all of the favorites are here. Ostrowski Wildason and father-prospect Rose are lively and entertaining in Take a Chance On Me. 
      The fun of Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre is interactive, and Mamma Mia is a great vehicle for this. Dance captains Sierra Basilio and Drew Looney appear at the end of intermission to teach the audience the moves for the encore song, Waterloo. Kudos to the audience, everyone did their enthusiastic best to join in.
      Finally, always a standing ovation for those that make all of this happen: great choreography by Pauline Lamb … production manager Lin Whetzel … stage manager Jennifer Smith and assistant stage manager Sarah Irving … sound board operators Bill Reinhardt, Rylei Smith and Maddie Maglin … light hang crew Ernie Morton, Kai Earnest, Ned McDonnell, Dulaney Wagner, Aria Grizzle and Sid Curl … tech running crew Amanda Brown, Elizabeth Bateman, Kylie Sjolie, Leigh Rawls, Katie Fitzpatrick, Madison Doyle, Kai Earnest, Walker Dixon, Zoe Smith, Maggie Urban, Sheila Doyle, Keira Doyle and Aria Grizzle. Special mention also for the fantastic 1970s’ costumes by Lisa Chadwick; Matthew Walter for props; Dynamo Tour for posters and Jim Gallagher for program cover; and Dan Snyder as mirror ball rigger.
      And thank you for the music to the musicians Ken Kimble, Trent Goldsmith, Kristie Snively, Randy Neilson, Chris Pinder, William Georg, Josh Siwak and Tod Wildason.
      The ensemble included Ashley DiLernia, Kirsti Dixon, Hannah, Housley, Katie Renee Lambert, Meghan McCarthy, Cristina Shunk, Fayth Strain and Alison Vallario.
     As you can see from all the people involved, many of the names appearing two and three times, it takes more than a village to put on a really good show.
 
 
Two hours, 15 mins. with a 15-minute intermission. ThFSaSu 8:30pm, thru Sept. 1, 143 Compromise St, Annapolis, $25: SOLD OUT: Try for stand-by tickets immediately before ­performance: www.summergarden.com