Dancing queens and kings triumph in ‘Mamma Mia!’

(Photo by Dave Hansen)

Last Resort Players present show Nov. 1-3, 7-10

Nov. 1, 2019 — Just as the winter wind begins to blow, and coastal residents anticipate the cold, long rain, what better place to be than a hot Greek island floating in a turquoise sea under an azure sky. It’s definitely the place to soak up sun and dream dreams, if only for two weekends — Nov. 1 to 3 and Nov. 7 to 10 at the Florence Events Center when the Last Resort Players present the smash hit of stage and screen, “Mamma Mia!”

It’s the story of love and romance, consequences and questions, conflict and resolution, and the happiest ending you could ever hope for.

But it’s not just the story. It’s the score: the music and lyrics of the ever-popular ensemble, ABBA, Sweden’s ignoble gift to the world. The dialogue and lyrics complement each other, whether it’s “Money, Money, Money,” “Gimme Gimme Gimme,” “Voulez-Vous” or “I Do, I Do, I Do.”

It’s a curious thing about this production. The music sounds like a full-blown orchestra, but in the pit are only a percussionist, a drummer, a guitarist, and a bassist. Where are the other players? Through the magic of electronics, three keyboard players armed with laptops synthesize the music and layer ABBA’s vocals to commingle them with the singers on stage, producing a really big sound.

It’s a special treat, equal to the sumptuous treat delivered by the LRP cast and ensemble whose enthusiasm is palpable.

You no doubt know the story. Sophie, who has been raised on this Greek island by her mother Donna, a free-loving hippie of the ‘70s, is about to marry Sky, the love of her life. But Sophie has a problem: She’s never known her father, and her mother claims not to know or care who he is. But being a practical woman of the ‘90s, Sophie needs to know, and having discovered three possibilities in her mother’s journal, she contrives to invite them to her wedding, unbeknownst to Donna. And they all come.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave. You’ll want to see how it all unwinds.

As to that sterling cast, Meryl Streep, eat your heart out. Wendy Krause is a smashing success as Donna. With a glorious voice, Krause owns the stage with style and grace. Brynne Graff as Donna’s daughter Sophie is a chip off the old block, another wonderful vocalist and acting sensation.

In fact, all the singing sparkles with skill and panache.

The three possible fathers are sensational, each in his own way. Matt Korso, charming and dapper as Harry Bright, shares a lovely duet, “Our Last Summer,” with Krause’s Donna. James McKinney, a natural comic, sporting an accent from Down Under as Bill Austin — adventurer, travel writer and confirmed bachelor, sings a delightful somewhat ribald duet with Rosie (DeAnn Hawkins), Donna’s old pal. The stunning Jason Wood as Sam Carmichael proves irresistible singing “S.O.S.” with Krause’s Donna and musing on “Knowing Me, Knowing You.”

Our heart belongs to all three dads.

William Owens as Sophie’s groom also has a powerfully fine voice, as do all the others. And deft comedy is provided by agile Ramiro Ramirez as Pepper, the barman who flirts shamelessly with the ladies and gets tossed about the stage for his efforts.

And you’ll keep laughing when Donna and her old pals Rosie and Tanya (Jennifer Marus) revive their old band, Donna and the Dynamos, decked out in glitz and glam in bright, primary colors. You’ll want to book them for your next party!

Anyhow, take a trip to Greece this weekend and next. And when you’re cheering the cast and ensemble, be sure to applaud director David Lauria, who also designed the evocative set; choreographer Melanie Heard, who keeps the dancing queens and kings on time and in line; and music director Pat Sapp, who coordinates the magical orchestration.

“Mamma Mia!” It’s good to see ya, especially in the extraordinarily capable hands of the Last Resort Players.

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