Rockingham Generic Theater Masks (copy)

Theater masks

GREENSBORO — The Greensboro College Theatre Department’s enthusiastic production of “Mamma Mia” opened Thursday night at the Huggins Performance Center on campus.

The game cast works very hard and delivers an entertaining evening.

“Mamma Mia” is built around the songs by the Swedish pop music group ABBA and ran for 14 years on Broadway. It is also the show that kicked jukebox musicals into high gear on Broadway for a decade. It is a big show that requires a big cast. It is not easy to duplicate the success of the Broadway production. Expensive production values and glitz can hide a lot of flaws.

The show “Mamma Mia” is problematic in structure. It is not quite a book musical and not quite a jukebox musical. The problem with the show is it tries to be both. It is dependent on energy, fast pacing and the right casting to make it work.

This show would be a challenge for any college because the driving conflict of the show is the difference in values and perspective between a 1960s/1970s feminist mother and her post-feminist daughter. This dynamic and tension based on generational conflict is very hard to deliver when the entire cast is basically the same age.

In the show, the daughter invites three men to her wedding to try to determine which of them is her father. Her mother will not tell her anything about her father, so the daughter gathers the “possibilities” by reading her mother’s diary. It all takes place on the eve of the wedding on an idyllic Greek Island. Realism is not an option, and it’s best not to think too much about the story. This is meant to be entertainment, not serious drama.

The standout in the cast is Hannah Hjerth as the daughter, Sophie. Admittedly, her job is made easier by being the appropriate age for her character. However, her singing and acting make the character believable and honest. Her voice is lovely.

The very talented Mikaela Craft makes a valiant effort with the character of Donna, the mother. The problem is she is simply too young for the part. Of the three potential fathers, Jahi Bogard as Sam is memorable. Benedict Burgess as Harry and Rodney Arters as Bill complete the fatherly triumvirate and are both very good.

The direction by Jo Hall makes good use of the stage and surrounding spaces, but the scene setups and staging become a little repetitious and the pacing is a little too slow. Ashley Hyers’ choreography is very good. Marie Denig’s musical direction is excellent and the small orchestra does a very nice job as well.

Overall, the Greensboro College Theatre team does a good job with a show that is harder to deliver than one might think. There are a lot of moving parts to this show and I’m sure it was an excellent learning experience for the students. The packed audience seemed to enjoy it as well.

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Scott Michaels is a lifelong supporter of the arts. Contact him at ScottMichaels100@gmail.com.

This News & Record arts coverage is supported by contributions to ArtsGreensboro’s Arts & Theatre Media Fund.

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