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Bob Goepfert Reviews HMT's Production of "Mamma Mia"

The musical “Mamma Mia” is as close to a guaranteed good time in the theater as you could ask.

It has a score by the popular Swedish pop group ABBA, which means it’s likely that even before the curtain rises every member of the audience is already in love with the music.

The story has appeal to anyone who had a romance decades ago that they’d love to revisit - even if just vicariously.

If you need more, “Mamma Mia!” has to do with a single mom and her daughter finding a way to show their respect for each other on the daughter’s wedding day. Talk about feel good.

Adding to the fun factor, it takes place on a Greek Island that still celebrates disco in sound and dress.

What’s not to like? In the production being offered by Home Made Theater in Saratoga Springs weekends through October 27, the answer is there is very little not to like.

It has a solid cast who sing and act well. The choreography is excellent and director Dawn Oesch sets a brisk pace that keeps the show flowing.

But there are problems. This production is unusual in that the smaller more intimate scenes are stronger than the larger ensemble numbers, which rarely excite.

Diane Lachtrupp Martinez’s choreography is excellent and the dancers execute well. But the dancers seem tentative and fail to ignite a spark in the audience. You observe without having the desire to participate.

My guess is a few performances before an audience will help a lot.

Indeed, the encore, an over-the-top ode to disco, was exactly what was missing throughout the show. No longer bound by a character, the performers seemed less self-conscious and just had fun. So did the audience. When the performers trust themselves enough to do this in character, the now tepid dance numbers will be exciting.

Richard Cherry’s musical direction with the four piece pit band is such an asset it’s a shame to hide them behind the set, which seems to cost the production some extra energy. I missed not seeing and feeling their presence.

This is not to imply the evening lacked anything to enjoy. “Mamma Mia!” is constructed so that every major character has a scene in which to shine. All take advantage.

Oesch and her fine cast actually find some emotional integrity in a storyline that tests logic. At Home Made the acting is strong enough that even flawed characters seem likeable.

This is especially true of Virginia May’s portrayal of the daughter, Sophie. May has the grace of a trained dancer and also has a terrific singing voice. She brings personality to a character who,in essence, is a 20-year old spoiled brat.

As the mother, Donna, Mellisa Mason Lacijan spends most of the first act creating a passive but pleasant woman.

However, she owns act two, especially with her solo number, “The Winner Takes it All” which she turns into an anthem for all independent women.

As Donna’s best friends, Leslie Eliashuk as Rosie and Kelly Sienkiewicz as Tanya, add comic moments and vulnerable charm to the proceedings.

Indeed, all the supporting roles are done well. Amongst the underwritten males roles, Eric Rudy (who happens to be Home Made’s new General Manager) stands out as Sam, the man who loves Donna even after being apart for 20 years.

Individually, all the performances are right on the money. This is a solid show. Once the ensemble relaxes, this production of “Mamma Mia!” will get even better.

It continues weekends through October 27. For tickets and Scheduling information call 518-587-4427 or go to homemadetheater.org

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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