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Theater Review: “Mamma Mia!”

“Mamma Mia” plays through June 30, 2018 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre,
Photo credit:
Ken Jacques Photography

In the eight years they performed together, European superpop group ABBA became a worldwide music phenomenon and recording legend. I’d wager that people who had never heard of ABBA leapt to their feet (or at least wanted to) when they first heard “Dancing Queen” – and let’s not forget “Mamma Mia!”

It was probably inevitable that ABBA songs would become the basis of a musical, and the 2001 musical “Mamma Mia!” proved the wisdom of that idea with a 14-year run on Broadway. There have been two national tours since.

Moonlight Stage Productions brings the rollicking regional premiere of “Mamma Mia!” to vibrant life on Vista’s outdoor Moonlight Amphitheatre stage through June 30, wonderfully directed and choreographed by John Vaughan.

The plot – written to fit the songs – is about bride-to-be Sophie Sheridan (Katie Sapper), who hatches a plot to meet her father so he can give her away at the wedding. Mom Donna (Bets Malone) has never wanted to talk about it, but Sophie’s been snooping through mom’s diaries and has located three possible dads. She’s invited all of them to her wedding. She hasn’t mentioned that to mom yet.

Donna is a free-wheeling liberated woman of the ’70s who has run a taverna on a small Greek island for the past 15 years. She is hugely surprised (not to mention ticked off) when she realizes what Sophie has done.

Back in the day, Donna was part of a female Spandex-wearing pop trio called Donna’s Dynamos, and of course the other two Dynamos are here for the wedding as well. They are tall, blonde Tanya (Barbara Schoenhofer) and short, squat brunette Rosie (Karyn Overstreet), a hoot as a group in their signature “Super Troupers” number or as individuals.

The dad possibilities are Australian Bill Austin (a terrific Lance Arthur Smith, complete with credible Aussie accent); quirky musician Harry Bright (Jason W. Webb), aka Head Banger, who grabs the nearest guitar and goes to town; and Sam Carmichael (Robert J. Townsend), the suave blond architect who designed Donna’s taverna and seems to have been Donna’s true love – for a while, anyway, until he left and married someone else.

Sophie begins to wonder about the wisdom of her maneuver when each of the men states flatly that he is her father and will give her away. What now?

That’s the plot, but plot isn’t the reason to see “Mamma Mia!” It’s those ineffably tuneful and danceable songs that will make you stifle (or give in to) the urge to sing along and/or get up and dance.

Director/choreographer John Vaughan has assembled a boffo cast and created some crazy ’70s dance routines that will have your toes tapping and you at least humming along.

Lighting designer Jean-Yves Tessier has worked some fine magic with the lighting, and Jim Zadai’s sound design is fine as well (though perhaps the decibel level could be cranked down a bit).

The rented costumes, sets and props (by 3-D Theatricals) are bright and colorful, and Conductor Lyndon Pugeda’s mighty 9-piece band keeps the sounds coming.

Summer’s here. Celebrate with Moonlight’s delightful “Mamma Mia!”

The details

“Mamma Mia” plays through June 30, 2018 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre,

1200 Vale Terrace Drive, Vista.

Wednesday through Sunday at 8 pm Extra performance added on Tuesday, June 26 at 8 pm

Tickets: (760) 724-2110 or www.moonlightstage.com