Review: Here It Comes Again - NSMT Reopens with Winning 'Mamma Mia!'

by Steve Duffy

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday October 12, 2021

The cast of "Mamma Mia!" at the NSMT through October 17
The cast of "Mamma Mia!" at the NSMT through October 17  (Source:Paul Lyden)

"Mamma Mia!," the international musical hit currently at the North Shore Music Theatre through October 17, remains fun because, well, it makes you feel good. The show may have a paper-thin plot, but it's all about the music of ABBA anyways. (The music and lyrics are by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, with some songs written with Stig Anderson.)

Those songs have long been the play's hook, starting in London in 1999, then moving on to New York, regional tours, and two movies. COVID caused the London production to close in March 2020, but it has reopened. In New York it ran for 14 years, amassing more than 5,000 performances, while the 2008 film version made $600 million worldwide.

The story centers on Sophie, a young woman living in on a Greek island at the hotel her mother Donna runs. Sophie is to marry Sky, but wants her father — whose identity she does not know — to come to the wedding. Suspecting he is one of three possibilities, she invites the trio to the wedding to learn which one is her dad.

What makes this production, directed by  Kevin P. Hill, so winning is the cast. As Sophie, Sara Bartoszek plays the role with a sly comic timing, but her vocals were a bit too weak at times. Lexie Dorsett Sharp plays Donna with fierce independence, and dominates the stage and the songs she sings. David Elder as Sam, Jesse Sharp as Harry, and Al Bundonisas as Bill are all charming as Sophie's potential dads.

The very likable and hilarious Tiffani Barbour, as Rosie, and the tantalizing and sexy Merrill Peiffer, as Tanya, are two divas who spice up the stage, playing Donna's old friends and former singing partners.

But the ABBA songs are the real stars here. "Dancing Queen," "Super Trouper," "Honey, Honey," "I Have a Dream," S.O.S.," "The Winner Takes It All," "Voulez-vous," and many others are cleverly worked into Catherine Johnson's libretto. The expert musical direction is by Bob Bray.

"Mamma Mia!" makes the perfect show to reopen the doors of the NSMT. The cast was well suited to their roles; the songs got everyone dancing, singing, and laughing in their seats. The costumes were bright and fun. If you are one of the few who have yet to be charmed by "Mamma Mia," then head to Beverly; and if you've seen it in other productions, you will won't be disappointed.

"Mamma Mia!" Continues through October 17, 2021 at the North Shore Music Theatre, 54 Dunham Rd., Beverly, MA. For more information, visit the NSMT website. "OUT at the North Shore," an evening for the LGBTQ+ Community with a post-show reception on October 14 after the 7:30 pm performance. OUT at the North Shore is sponsored by North Shore Pride.