'Mamma Mia!' Takes It All

Touring musical soars on ABBA hits and solid acting


A near-capacity crowd filed into the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts Oct. 18 hungry for the catchy pop hits and glittery costumes of "Mamma Mia!"

Before the curtain rose, one woman leaned over and whispered, “I’m sorry if my singing along annoys you.”

No one could be annoyed with dancing in the aisles, superb singing and touching mother-daughter moments in the high-energy musical.

"Mamma Mia!" — playing for two more shows Oct. 19 in Downtown Jacksonville — soars on hits by the Swedish group ABBA and the story of reuniting fragments of a shattered past during a wedding in paradise.

Bride-to-be Sophie, played by Chelsea Williams, dreams of having the father she never knew walk her down the aisle. Setting the chaos in motion, Sophie reads her mother's diary and writes to three men — believing one is her dad. All three men arrive at Sophie's wedding in Greece to the surprise of her mother Donna, played by Georgia Kate Haege.

Williams fits as the sweet and persistent wide-eyed heroine Sophie. That character type can be tiring, but Donna's practicality gives the story balance.

Donna, looking to rekindle her spirit as "El Rock Chick Supremo," is a fiery mop of blonde curls. Haege radiates independence, so key to the character, and her jaded delivery of some of the musical’s more dramatic songs was startling.

Gabrielle Mirabella and Carly Sakolove are stellar as Donna's old best friends Tanya and Rosie, respectively. The leggy, confident Tanya and the hilarious Rosie steal the show.

Sakolove's rendition of “Take a Chance on Me,” while seducing Bill was charming and heartfelt. Mirabella shimmied with young studs to “Does Your Mother Know.” The boys need to remember their backpacks the next time she takes them to school.

Mirabella spoke to Folio Weekly by phone a week before the show, and her love of the character Tanya was clear.

“If I could have played another role, I guess I would have played Donna,” Mirabella said. “But she doesn’t get to dance with young guys, so what is the point of playing her?”

The male cast proved equally hilarious, though somewhat less dazzling. Bill (Michael Colavolpe), Harry (Mark A. Harmon), Sam (Don Winsor) and Sky (Chris Stevens) were all handsome and energetic.

"Mamma Mia!" is no doubt a crowd-pleaser with superb singing, acting and costumes. Rows of cute guys dance in tiny purple scuba outfits, and the metallic rhinestones on the disco queen outfits worn by Donna and the Dynamos shimmer.

No doubt, ABBA fans come to the musical to sing along, but the strong acting should win audiences over as well.

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