What did our reviewers think of shows new to or still on Cape Cod stages this week?
Here’s a look at productions of “Jerker” at Provincetown Theater; “Assassins,” by College Light Opera Company; “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus” at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater; “Mame” at Chatham Drama Guild; “Twelfth Night” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by the Cape Cod Shakespeare Festival in Chatham; “Mary Poppins” at Academy Playhouse; “Victor/Victoria” at Cotuit Center for the Arts; “The Ballad of Bobby Botswain” at Harbor Stage Company; and “Mamma Mia!” at Cape Rep Theatre in Brewster.
By Jay Pateakos
Written by: Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by John Weidman, based on an original concept by Charles Gilbert Jr.; directed by Alison Morooney with musical direction by David Möschler; presented by College Light Opera Company
What it’s about: The “Assassins” musical focuses on the historical figures who have killed or attempted to kill United State presidents, what their lives were like behind all that we know about them, and how they would interact with other assassins over different generations when in the same room. Think of it as a carnival show but with sinister implications.
See it or not? See it, without a doubt, but look at it from a historical perspective. Our generation, after so many mass shootings, has learned to ignore the history of shooters. This play tends to glorify them but from a historical standpoint, it sheds light on some of the struggles the shooters went through. I found that fascinating: Squeaky Fromme’s rejection by her father; John Wilkes Booth’s theater performances being spurned by many critics; John Hinckley just looking to be loved.
Highlights of the show: There are a few. Booth, played fabulously by Jason Edelstein, is the glue that holds the assassins together. Erin Burtchaell, who plays Nixon’s would-be assassin Sam Byck draped in a dirty Santa Claus outfit, gives a stunning acting performance. Antonio Esposito masters his portrayal, along with the Polish accent, of Leon Czolgoscz, killer of President McKinley.
Fun fact: Stephen Sondheim started his career out as a lyricist, and has always been known for his intelligent use of lyrics. Spend the time listening to the dialogue of this musical.
Worth noting: The acting in this production makes it special and you lose sight of the fact that these are either current or recently graduated students still with the chance of a professional future ahead of them. The pair of would-be assassins — Samantha Altman’s Squeaky Fromme and Bella Bosco’s Sara Jane Moore, who targeted the life of President Gerald Ford — were super-entertaining and side-splittingly funny.
One more thing: The first appearance for “Assassins” on Broadway ended with a whimper, closing after 73 performances. But when the show was brought back in 2004, it won five Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical.
If you go: Through Aug. 6, with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. shows on Aug. 3-4. Tickets and information: http://www.collegelightoperacompany.com/. CLOC notes this about the show’s content: “All of these firearms are props, and cannot and will never be loaded with ammunition of any kind. Still, each one is carefully checked before each performance to ensure the safety of our company and our audience. Each gun shot you hear is a sound effect, programmed by our stage manager. This production contains themes of violence, death and sex. These characters use adult and occasionally shocking, harmful language chosen explicitly by the authors of this work.”
By Shannon Goheen
Written by: Robert Chesley; directed by David Drake; presented by The Provincetown Theater
What it’s about: Two gay men living in San Francisco in the 1980s have repeated phone sex and fall in love, though they never meet. It’s a fascinating and poignant pornographic elegy to the men who went through the tragedy of AIDS before the medical world was prepared to handle it. Joe MacDougall as JR initiates late-night phone calls to Bert, played by Stephen Walker. There are 20 phone calls, to be precise, some sweet but most of them dirty.
See it or not: Don’t see this for-mature-audiences-only show with parents, children, or anyone with whom you would avoid having a hard-core sex talk. Otherwise, it’s a riveting, eye-opening, 90-minute drama with full-frontal nudity that’s never gratuitous or salacious. The only voyeurism that happens here is observing the growing love and impending doom between the two characters. The theater is set up as a “theater in the round” that offers a ring-side view of the two men engaging in intimate acts, unseen by each other but convincingly visible to the audience.
Highlight of the show: To comfort the ailing Bert, JR tells him a non-sexual, fantasy bedtime story. MacDougall leaves his bed for the first time in the telling of it and makes his way around the room. The best of humanity is on display in this intimate soliloquy and because of it, the audience is emotionally bolstered for the remainder of the unfolding drama.
Interesting fact: The timing of this production is either masterful, or just lucky. The Provincetown Theater had intended to produce “Jerker” sooner, but had to cancel because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new timing adds another perspective: Although the AIDS epidemic took a heavy toll on the gay community, COVID-19 — another virus to which the human body has no resistance — has been making the rounds through the entire human population.
Worth noting: “Jerker” could be written off by prudes, used to denigrate the gay culture, or — as really did happen — prompt government officials to impose repression of sexual art. Judgmental dismissal of the behavior that made AIDS so devastating, though, ignores the fact that human behavior is rarely rational, but instead more responsive to feelings, attention and touch. The current pandemic is proof positive that risky behavior often takes precedence over caution.
One more thing: MacDougall and Walker play their roles so well that caring deeply for the success of their characters’ relationship and respecting their personal vulnerability is unavoidable. Watching “Jerker” is as intimate an experience as the viewer will ever get short of having the experience themselves.
If you go: 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays through Sept. 1, except Aug. 18, with an extra performance at 7 p.m. Aug. 19 at The Provincetown Theater, 234 Bradford St.; $40; provincetowntheater.org, Boxoffice@provincetowntheater.org, 508-487-7487. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination and masks are required.
‘Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus’
By Paul Babin
Written by: Taylor Mac; directed by RJ Tolan; presented by Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater
What it’s about: The curtain rises on a lavish banquet room strewn with corpses. The bodies are still warm, as the bloody events that conclude Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus” have only just played out. Gary, a clown, and Janice, a maid, have been tasked with cleaning up the mess, which mostly consists of bleeding the corpses and then pressing on what’s left of their stomachs so the farts fly out. The problem for Janice, who just wants to finish the job, is that Gary is more of a philosopher than a clown. His aim is to one day shed his clown costume and become a fool, for while clowns encourage idiots, fools “tease out our stupidity with brain.” Eventually joined by a midwife named Carol, who emerges from beneath the mound of corpses, the trio banter about numerous subjects, including Titus’s tragic end and the dream of a better tomorrow.
See it or not: It’s brilliant! Mac draws upon the raw materials of Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedy to create an uproarious, sophisticated comedy. Who knew that scenes set in a room littered with bloody carcasses would have tickled my funny bone? Much of the credit goes to the performers, who deliver Mac’s hilarious dialogue with just the right comic touch. As Janice, AJ Clauss got a huge laugh at Friday’s performance when he facetiously asked Gary, “Ya think this is my first massacre?”
Highlights: Layla Khoshnoudi delivers a wickedly funny performance as the eponymous clown. Her performance is so affecting because she never condescends to the character. Despite the situation Gary finds himself in, I never pitied him, mostly because his optimism is so inspiring. While Janice can’t envision a better future for herself, Gary dreams of becoming a great fool who will slyly speak truth to power.
Fun fact: The play premiered on Broadway in 2019, starring Nathan Lane, Kristine Nielson and Julie White. It earned seven Tony Award nominations, including for Best Play.
Worth noting: The prologue is bloody hilarious … literally. It starts with Carol championing the virtues of violence: “So double up on savagery and war: To satisfy you multiply the gore.” Then, seemingly out of nowhere, blood squirts out of her neck. Despite her apparent attempts to control the hemorrhaging, streams of blood have stained the stage by the time Carol’s finished her soliloquy.
One more thing: You don’t have to have seen “Titus Andronicus” to enjoy “Gary,” but it helps. If you decide to revisit Shakespeare’s classic, I recommend “Titus,” Julie Taymor’s deliciously over-the-top 1999 film starring Anthony Hopkins as the ill-fated general and Jessica Lange as the scheming Tamora. Taymour takes liberties with the play while still capturing its inimitable tone and tenor.
If you go: 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays through Aug. 19 at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, Outermost Performing Arts Center, 2357 State Highway Route 6; $25-$40 with discounts for seniors; students $15; 508-349-9428, http://www.what.org/.
‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’
By Sue Mellen
Written by: William Shakespeare; presented by The Cape Cod Shakespeare Festival in Chatham
What it’s about: This is one of the Bard’s most enduring comedies — with a capital ‘C.’ This trimmed-down version of “Midsummer” is a hilarious, 90-minute romp through a fairy-filled forest. It’s a mixed-up mélange of love found, lost and found again times two — well, three, if you count fairy king and queen Oberon (Reid Williams) and Titania (Isabelle Archer). Plus there’s a play within a play and, just for good measure, a spell that turns a character named Bottom (Chris Bailey) into a donkey-headed beast. And speaking of spells, a potion-laced magic plant is what sends the various lovers into a mixed-up frenzy of emotions. Whew!
It all begins when Theseus, Duke of Athens and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons (Williams and Archer again) start to plan celebrations to mark their engagement. Theseus’s subject Egeus (Alan Rust) brings his headstrong daughter Hermia (Riley Means) to the royal couple to solicit their help in prompting her to marry his choice for son-in-law Demetrius (Sam Vana). But Hermia has other ideas: She is in love with Lysander (Christopher Andrew Rowe). And then there’s Helena (Arlene Bozich), whose heart yearns for Demetrius. In a plot to capture his affections, she tells him that his intended wife plans to escape to the local forest with her paramour. So Helena and Demetrius set out to shatter Hermia’s plans. And that’s when the fun really begins.
See it or not: Go for the chance to see one of the great comedic masterpieces of all time, and to laugh out loud for 90 minutes. Then enjoy the beauty and authenticity of the colorful costumes. And just to add a soothing touch to your night, bask in the gentle strains of music from violinist Shuga Ohasi.
Highlights of the show: How do you even begin to talk about highlights of one of the great comedic masterpieces in the English language? The show is so full of wit, wisdom and complex plot lines that it’s almost impossible to pull it apart. But here goes:
In the hands of director Robert Davis, managing director Terry Layman and artistic director Alan Rust, this production is just brimming with the kind of life, love and laughter that its author intended. The accomplished cast, some of whom are alumni of the decades-long program at the closed Monomoy Theatre in Chatham, expertly draw the audience members into the action and fun from the very beginning — holding them there until the hilarity ends.
While the cast is universally expert, a couple of performances seem to encapsulate the true meaning of fun. Bailey is a bundle of comedic energy as the donkey-headed Bottom, hee-hawing his way from one scene to the next. And Matt Werner is a scream in his dual roles as bellows mender Frances Flute and flighty female Thisbe (continuing a tradition of actors performing in drag way back in the Elizabethan era).
Fun fact: The show was first performed sometime between 1594 and 1596. The first performance is said to have been at the wedding of one of two royal couples, hence the Bard’s emphasis on love and marriage in the play.
Worth noting: The show is perfectly suited to its outdoor setting at Kate Gould Park in the center of Chatham, with stage lights coming on as the daylight fades. The audience is literally transported to the forest where most of the action takes place. This seems to be an example of why Shakespeare in the Park has become a staple of summer theater around the world.
One more thing: There is no seating on site, so bring chairs to enjoy this new endeavor. While Rust has said the group welcomes children to these shows to help start a tradition of bringing young people to the theater, consider their age and attention span and monitor their behavior. Loud youngsters can be distracting to the audience in this setting.
If you go: 7 p.m. Aug 2 and 4, Kate Gould Park, 15 Chatham Bars Ave., Chatham; free; www.ccsfc.org
By Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll
Written by: William Shakespeare; co-directed by Terry Layman and Christopher Andrew Rowe; presented by the inaugural Cape Cod Shakespeare Festival in Chatham
What it’s about: This is a 90-minute, free outdoor adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies, filled with wordplay, mistaken identity, pranks and confusion over love until it all turns right in the end. Viola believes her brother killed in a shipwreck, so assumes his identity to help the Count, who is wooing grieving Lady Olivia. Viola falls for the Count; Olivia falls for Viola dressed as male Cesario; and prim servant Malvolio is tricked into believing Olivia has fallen for him by a group of mischief-making friends who stir the confusion and add jokes and music to the scene.
See it or not: This new endeavor by alumni of the former Monomoy Theatre is a wonderful way to spend an evening, sitting outside by the gazebo at Kate Gould Park in downtown Chatham. In repertory with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” through Aug. 4, this show was the company’s opener Tuesday night after weather concerns canceled Monday, and more than 200 people brought chairs and blankets to watch, with more stopping by and standing at the back when they happened upon the entertainment.
Highlights: The entire cast is talented and entertaining, led by Riley Means as Viola; Isabelle Archer as Olivia; co-director Rowe as the Count; Arlene Bozich as clever servant Maria; Chris Bailey as not-drowned brother Sebastian; Matthew Werner as silly suitor Sir Andrew Anguecheeck and Bernard Cornwell as rowdy Toby Belch with his mischievous band. Top comedy points, though, have to go to Reid Williams as fast-talking and outrageous servant Malvolio (hilarious in front of the curtain or lit up behind it); and Eddie Cruz Jr. as fool Feste, who has a strong and versatile singing voice (played off well with guitarist Sam Vana) and top comic timing.
Fun fact: Most members of the cast are professional actors or acting students brought in for this new endeavor, many alumni of the former Monomoy Theatre or affiliated with the University of Hartford that long sponsored the company. In other roles are Cornwell, an international best-selling author who lives in Chatham; Alan Rust, company artistic director who held that role for decades with Monomoy; and frequent local actor Scott Hamilton, who manages Chatham Jewelers.
Worth noting: A gorgeous backdrop reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, with hundreds of people depicted in the gallery to watch the show, comes courtesy of Chatham artist Carol Odell. Her husband, metal sculptor Tom Odell, designed the pipelike frames that hold up the three curtains, and that set has to be taken down after every performance , to make way for other park activities, including the beloved Friday night band concerts.
One more thing: Get to Chatham early if you’re looking for parking, especially if it’s the same night as a Chatham Anglers baseball game. It’s a busy downtown on a summer night, but once you get to the park, there’s all kinds of space to spread out chairs and with the incline, most seats should have a good view. There’s also space for kids to run around as needed, so this is a great way to introduce all ages to the theater as part of summertime entertainment.
If you go: 7 p.m. July 28, Aug. 1 and 3, in repertory with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on other weeknights, with July 30-31 and Aug. 6 a potential rail dates; at Kate Gould Park, between Main Street and Chatham Bars Ave; free; https://ccsfc.org.
By Sue Mellen
Written by: Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman; presented by the Chatham Drama Guild
What it’s about: This musical tells the story of the irrepressible, irresistible, always brash and boisterous Mame Dennis (Bridget Williams), whose party-filled existence is upended by the arrival of nephew Patrick (Toby Goers), who is quite suddenly in her care. To make matters more complicated, it’s 1929 — and you know what that means: The stock market is about to sink to the bottom of the sea, taking Mame’s little nest egg with it. She tries her hand at a number of money-making gigs — all with disastrous results. In one cute vignette, she takes a bit part in actress and best friend Vera Charles’ (Deb Mahaney) Broadway show, only to fall off a crescent moon on the set. But there is possible romance in the offing, thanks to the appearance of wealthy southern gentlemen Beauregard Jacket Pickett Burnside (Glenn Starner-Tate).
See it or not: Go for the Jerry Herman music and the fun of seeing one more version of the character Rosalind Russell and Angela Lansbury made famous. As Pam Banas — who is director, choreographer and also takes on two roles — notes before curtain, it’s no small task for a community theater like the guild, working with all volunteers, to take on such a full-bodied show. (There are 22 characters and 14 musical numbers.) As a result, though, delivery of lines and lyrics is uneven, with projection through the theater sometimes suffering. Exceptions are the strong voices and bold deliveries of Williams’ Mame and Devin Massarsky as a grown-up Patrick.
Highlights of the show: Jerry Herman’s compositions are front-and-center, with Geraldine Boles as accompanist and musical director. Familiar tunes include “We Need a Little Christmas,” “Mame” and “Open a New Window,” with other parts of the score including “Moon Song” and “The Fox Hunt.” There is also a cute bit where Mame and Vera display their somewhat tattered affection for one another in the number “Bosom Buddies.”
Fun fact: The Auntie Mame character is based on the real-life aunt — Marion Tanner — of Edward Everett Tanner III. Author Tanner also wrote under the pseudonym Patrick Tanner, and his book “Auntie Mame: An irreverent escape” was one of the best-selling books of the 20th century.
Worth noting: Costumes (also thanks to Banas) are authentic and sometimes really fun, including a bright red, Asian-style, tunic-like top that Williams sports in one scene.
One more thing: The growing relationship between Patrick and Mame is central to this story: Hence the name of the non-musical version, “Auntie Mame,” and the song “My Best Girl” that Patrick sings to his auntie in this musical version. Other people whose lives Mame continues to mold and manage include housekeeper Agnes Gooch (Amy Jane Kneppers), who finds herself pregnant and unwed (a big deal in 1929).
If you go: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 20 at Chatham Drama Guild, 134 Crowell Road; $25 general seating, $28 cabaret seating; 508-945-0510 or http://www.chatdramaguild.org/.
By Sue Mellen
Written by: Julian Fellowes, with original music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, new songs and additional lyrics by Anthony Drew and George Stiles, co-created by Cameron Mackintosh, based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney film; presented by the Academy of Performing Arts.
What it’s about: For generations, the very mention of the name Mary Poppins has painted a picture of the “practically perfect” nanny who is loving and kind, while at the same time nobody’s pushover. (Consider the line: “I never explain anything.”) And there is, of course, something magical about her. That’s clear from the very start, when she appears out of thin air to rescue youngsters Jane and Michael Banks (Mia Nadeau and Jack Baumrind) from a succession of inept and ineffective nannies.
It soon becomes clear that Mary (Jennifer Almeida) has descended from the heavens to rescue not only the Banks children but the whole Banks household from the dark cloud that has been hanging over 17 Cherry Tree Lane in not-so-merry Old London. With the help of bankside philosopher and erstwhile chimney sweep Bert (Mark Roderick) — and a healthy dose of music and dance — the umbrella-toting Mary teaches everyone in the Banks household (and of course the audience) the true meaning of life.
See it or not: Adults would enjoy for the trip back in time if you remember the Julie Andrews/Dick Van Dyke movie version, and bring the kids to experience the true meaning of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious for the first time.
Highlight of the show: It’s turning out to be a very musical summer in the Cape Cod theater world, and this offering is a perfect example. Director/choreographer Judy Hamer, choreographers DJ Kostka and LeVane Harrington, and musical director/accompanist Chris Morris have put together a show that is filled with the joyous song-and-dance numbers we all remember from the 1964 flick. There’s “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” “Step in Time” and “Jolly Holiday.” Then there are some numbers new to the stage version, including “Being Mrs. Banks” and “Practically Perfect.”
A large ensemble of youngsters joins Almeida, Roderick, Nadeau and Baumrind for several numbers, giving the impression that all of London is rejoicing in the Mary Poppins revolution. “Jolly Holiday” is a particularly fun number, as Almeida and Roderick treat the audience to some soft-shoe hoofing that is like an extra “spoonful of sugar.”
Fun fact: The 1964 film version garnered 13 Oscar nominations and won the Best Picture award. In fact, it was the only Disney film to earn that award during Disney’s lifetime.
Worth noting: Randy Doyle and Rachel Hischak play off one another convincingly as workaholic George Banks (a banker of course) and his doting wife Winifred. And Nadeau and Baumrind are a joy as the slightly-mischievous-but-always-lovable Banks children. Baumrind is simply adorable as the quip-slinging youngster — complete with British accent. And just for good measure, there is the delightfully evil Miss Andrew, played by Denise Page.
One more thing: All the costumes seem authentic, with Almeida’s particularly pleasing. She IS Mary Poppins in her ¾-length red coat and full skirt, and the picture of Victorian elegance in her sparkling white dress and picture hat for “Jolly Holiday.” Karen Hepinstall, Emma Taylor, Sam Roderick, Alex Savery and Judy Hamer make up the costume team.
If you go: 7 p.m. Aug. 4-6; 2 p.m. Aug. 7 at the Academy Playhouse, 120 Main St., Orleans; $30 adults, $20 under age 16; 508-202-1952, www.academyplayhouse.org
By Jay Pateakos
Written by: by Blake Edwards, with music by Henry Mancini, lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, other music and lyrics by Frank Wildhorn; presented by Cotuit Center for the Arts
What it’s about: A down-on-her-luck soprano searches for work and redemption in 1930s Paris and finds both by disguising herself as a man dressing in drag and wowing audiences while being a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman – until the day of reckoning comes.
See it or not? See it for sure. The 1982 original movie, made famous by Julie Andrews, James Garner and Robert Preson was ahead of its time with its themes and adapted into a musical in 1995. The musical works to highlight poverty, lack of gender equality, transgender struggles and the difficulty in just being yourself, or who you really want to be. This musical is timelier than ever.
Highlights of the show: Perhaps the most outrageously humorous performance goes to Marie-Josee Bourelly, who plays the vivaciously loud and sarcastic Norma Cassidy, ruler of the house in “Paris Makes Me Horny” and “Chicago, Illinois.” Lead Talia Hankin, who plays Victoria Grant, shows off her stunning voice in “Le Jazz Hot,”, “If I were a Man” and the haunting “Crazy World.” Also a highlight is Alex Valentine, who plays Carroll “Toddy” Todd, a woman trapped in the body of a man who works magic in “Trust Me” and “You & Me.”
Fun fact: The cast is mostly composed of great local talent with a few New Yorkers sprinkled in, including Talia Hankin as Victoria and Marie-Josee Bourelly as Norma as well as the lighting and stage designers.
Worth noting: Director Celia Krefter, a 21-year-old Mashpee native and recent Colombia University graduate who now lives in New York, is making her Cape Cod directorial debut with “Victor Victoria” – at the same theater where she performed her first-ever theatrical performance in “It’s a Wonderful Life” back in 2010.
One more thing: Director Krefter notes that “Victor/Victoria” is a celebration of queerness that she and the cast and crew pushed the boundaries on to extend that celebration of expression to various aspects of the production, including sets, lighting, costumes and more.
If you go: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 4-6, and 3 p.m. Aug 7; at Cotuit Center for the Arts, 4404 Falmouth Road (Route 28); $40 with discounts available; https://artsonthecape.org/
‘The Ballad of Bobby Botswain’
By Carol Panasci
Written by: Jonathan Fielding and Jason Lambert; presented by Harbor Stage Company
What it’s about: This world premiere may be about the most interesting evening of theater you’ve seen in a long time! Like a buddy comedy on hallucinogens, the unconventional plot revolves around the search for the notorious Bobby Botswain, a combination of a pharmaceutical Robin Hood and a magical mystic. The show’s two characters navigate morals, ethics and unlikely friendship on their journey.
See it or not: Absolutely see it. This is a remarkable experience, an indescribable delight. The production values are superb, from set design (Seancolin Hankins) to sound (designer J Hagenbuckle) and lighting (designer John Malinowski). The script is rapid-fire, engrossing, engaging and surprising. The acting and physicality are seamlessly calibrated. The show offers philosophy and pathos with a dollop of outrageous, laugh-out-loud humor.
Fun fact: Fielding is a co-founder of Harbor Stage and Lambert, a friend since graduate school, has been a longtime collaborator and previously performed at Harbor Stage in “Artist Descending a Staircase” and “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
Worth noting: Fielding has said he and Lambert first talked about writing the play before the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010. But Fielding has said the issue of unequal access to health care has become just as topical in the wake of the pandemic.
One more thing: The Harbor Stage Company consistently lives up to its slogan “A theater by the sea that’s right on the edge.” It’s refreshing to have a company that takes righteous risks.
If you go: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays (plus Wednesday, Aug. 3) and 5 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 6 at Harbor Stage Company, 15 Kendrick Ave., Wellfleet; $25; http://www.harborstage.org/
By Shannon Goheen
Written by: Music and lyrics by Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus and some songs with Stig Anderson; book by Catherine Johnson; directed and choreographed by Dani Davis; presented by Cape Rep Theatre.
What it’s about: A wedding is approaching on a Greek island and bride-to-be Sophie Sheridan (Chelsey Jo Ristaino) conspires to discover the identity of her real father. After finding her mother’s diary with various intriguing entries, she sends invites, unbeknownst to her mother, to three men who may have been her father. They all arrive on the island and cause mayhem by each eventually claiming to be her father and shocking Sophie’s mother, Donna (Trish LaRose) as she encounters the three past lovers. At least 24 songs from the 1970s band ABBA help tell the story that concludes with a heartwarming twist.
Highlight of the show: The choreography is outstanding. It’s high-octane dancing frequently laden with sexual innuendo, and the mostly young acters are well-suited for the near-constant action. Kudos to director/choreographer Dani Davis for envisioning and designing this two-hour shivaree that is so buoyant it’s a struggle to keep one’s mouth shut and not belt out the ABBA hits along with the spirited cast.
Fun fact: ABBA, a Swedish pop band formed in 1972, became one of the best-selling bands in the history of popular music. Written in 1999, “Mamma Mia!” is in the top 10 longest-running Broadway productions and is still running in London’s West End. Save some money and see it at Cape Rep. It’s almost certainly every bit as entertaining!
Worth noting: Ristaino and LaRose perform the most songs and have terrific voices. Nick Nudler (Sky) occasionally plays his guitar along with the singers, as does Madison Mayer (Lisa), and it adds a lot to the music’s beauty. The ensemble pieces are particularly fun, such as when heads pop out of every door and window on the set during the chorus of “Mamma Mia!” Another great moment is the crazy, campy confusion of wedding preparations set against a duet of “Take a Chance on Me” by Maura Hanlon (Rosie) and Ari Lew (Bill).
One more thing: The shows are on the outdoor stage but the indoor main stage is ready (masks required) with a working set in case of rain. Bug repellant is available, free of charge, but if you are a biting-bug magnet, be sure to cover up. The lift you’ll get from “Mamma Mia!” is worth the effort so don’t hesitate to make your reservations.
If you go: 7 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays through Aug. 14 at Cape Rep Theatre, 3299 Main St. (north side of Route 6A), Brewster; $40 (group rates and student rush tickets available); or 508-896-1888 or https://caperep.org/.