‘Mamma Mia!’ packs opening night for Barn Players

The Barn Player

Abba fans get an added bonus when attending “Mamma Mia!” at the Barn’s newest production–they get an Abba concert with a funny, but illegitimate story-line to string the musical masterpieces together. But, it’s Abba, and it’s a guaranteed fun time.

The story centers on a mother and daughter on a Greek Island the day before the daughter’s wedding. Because of some past indiscretions, Sophia has never been told who her dad is, but has discovered evidence that it is one of three men her mother “dated” 21 years ago. On her mission to meet her dad, Sophia invites all three possibilities to her wedding, unbeknownst to her mother. That’s the setup to the show.

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The balance of the show tries to untie the knots and discover the background and the true identity of the father, learn about the mother’s past as part of a girl singing/performing group, and work in the Abba hits along with lots of spirited dance.

Director Eric Magnus slowed the pace of the show and the dialogue to place more focus on the story and bring it out more. In other productions in the area, the show moves so fast that some of the story is lost (and the story is not that well written, anyway). In this version, the story plays out fully and is very understandable because it is not rushed to jump to the next Abba song. That helps the audience find the humor of the piece, the different personalities, and the age distinction between the 1970s and 1990s. Donna and the Dynamos are time-locked in the Disco Era while Sophie’s life left all that behind. The contrast of the two generations is fun to watch.

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Opening night jitters with the young cast and some technical problems did not allow this production to explode as it should. Rest assured these situations can be overcome. The sound in this venue is tricky to manipulate. Sitting in the front row, I could not hear a lot of Sophie’s dialogue or lyrics and she was directly in front of me. Dialogue on the opposite side of the stage was mainly a echo, and again not distinguishable. For “Mamma Mia!” the Abba music is the focus and needed to be louder, but in this venue if you crank up the volume, the actors are drown out. Some adjustments in sound can help, but the venue needs a better sound system as it continues to develop. A few lighting cues need tweaking, but again, with limited lights and spots, it’s difficult to always light the performance spaces. But, that, too can be adjusted.

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One of the joys is watching young talent emerge and grow. “Mamma Mia!” allowed Eric Magnus to put a lot of young, developing talent on stage allowing them to work with some Kansas City favorites, side by side. This gives them a chance to learn alongside others to gain their stage confidence and grow as performers.

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Even though there were some opening night problems, the overall effect is a fun show that will grow, change, and develop through its two weekend run. Opening night drew a near capacity crowd. Subsequent performances will surely sell out. The show is fun, and the audience is encouraged to dance at the curtain call. Choreographer Valerie Martin had configured the curtain call to encourage audience participation.

The cast was fun and strongest among the adult performers. Alicia Mock gave a bright and fun delivery of Donna and her vocals were spot on. Stasha Case made Tanya fun and sexy throughout, especially when she was flirting and teasing the younger Pepper (Cameron Gunter). Valerie Dykes as Rosie just

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about stole the second act with her “Take a Chance on Me” with Kevin Bogan. David Martin and Trevor French as two of the possible fathers were rock-solid.

The younger cast suffered from the lack of development and inclusion in the script. While Sophie and her bridesmaids are to mirror a younger generation of Donna, Tanya, and Rosie, the script barely includes the trio in any scenes. The groom and his two friends are not well-developed parts, either. The script really limits actors. Similarly, the character of Sophie is only given short scenes and lines to link parts together. Even though Sophie is a central character in the story, the script just fails to give her a lot to do or a lot

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of range as a character. Brooke Ariel is very good and does what she can with the part and is to be commended.

“Mamma Mia!” is difficult show on several levels. The cast is huge; the choreography is difficult; casting is difficult; the music is non-stop and fast; lots of scene changes; short scenes; and the list continues. The Barn Players did a nice job is paring this audience pleaser to fit the confines of the space and present a solid version for KC Metro audiences. Kudos to all the cast and crew.

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The cast is: Alicia Mock as Donna Sheridan, Valerie Dykes as Rosie, Stasha Case as Tanya, Dave Martin as Sam Charmichael, Kevin Bogan as Bill Austin, Trevor French as Harry Bright, Brooke Ariel as Sophie Sheridan, Jade Selden as Lisa, Jefferson Hanwood as Sky, Cameron Gunter as Pepper, Brent Custer as Eddie. The ensemble is: Drew Bellamy, Grayson Brink, Pacha Brown, Meghan Cable, Shannon Dougherty, Raheem Fielder-Bey, Victoria Garcia, Tyler Harper, Lauren Hurley, Rachelle King, Brenna McConaughey, Mark McNeal, Stephanie Palmer, Jacob Robertson, Nancy Seeman, Sabrina Stewart, Alecia Stultz, Stacey Stofferahn, Miles Wirth.

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The Production team is: Eric Magnus, director; Michelle Allen McIntyre, music director; Valerie Martin, choreographer, Matthew Koehler, stage manager; Jan Chapman & Chloe McIntyre, assistant stage managers, Fran Kapono-Kuzila, costumer, Doug Schroeder, scenic designer, Doug Schroeder and Chair Palmer, set construction, Jan Chapman, props master, Chuck Cline, lighting designer, Phil Khnab Nguyen Le, lighting assistant and spot operator, Sean Leistico, sound designer, Kate Sanders, sound operator, Miles Wirth and Nancy Seeman, dance captains, Chloe McIntyre, music intern, Sofia Kelley, dance intern, Kevin Fullerton, graphic designer.

The “Mamma Mia!” orchestra under the direction of Michelle Allen McIntyre is: Keyboard 1, Michelle Allen McIntyre; Todd Gregory-Gibbs, Keyboard 2; Drums, Blake Vignery; Bass, Frank Annecchini; Guitar 1, Jay Kennel; Guitar 2, Bill Wood.

“Mamma Mia!” continues at Arts Asylum, presented by The Barn Players for one more weekend. Tickets are available through The Barn Players website. Advance ticketing is strongly encouraged to avoid shut at the box office. www.thebarnplayers.org

Tags: “Mamma Mia!” review, The Barn Players, Arts Asylum, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts and Entertainment.