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A Winner Takes the Stage: MAMA MIA! was a Triumph at the Eccles Theatre

Nestled into the heart of Salt Lake City, the Eccles Theatre played host to an unforgettable Tuesday night rendezvous with the sensational MAMA MIA! This musical escapade effortlessly danced its way into my top 5 favorite productions, boasting a magnetic charm that transcends the boundaries of conventional musical theatre. As the sun dipped below the cityscape, the Eccles Theatre lit up with the vibrant energy of MAMA MIA!, offering an evening of pure entertainment and soul-stirring ABBA magic.

In the spotlight was the incomparable Christine Sherrill, who graced the stage as Donna, weaving a vocal tapestry that resonated with the audience’s collective heart. Sherrill’s rendition of “Winner Takes it All” was nothing short of a masterclass in emotional storytelling, leaving an indelible mark on the musical landscape. Sherrill not only mastered the art of her character but also unleashed vocal fireworks that elevated the production. Alongside her were the dynamic duo of Carly Sakolove as Rosie and Jalynn Steele as Tanya, injecting a delightful dose of humor and vocal prowess that added an extra layer of brilliance to the performance. Their on-stage chemistry was a spectacle, creating an atmosphere of pure theatrical joy.

As the trio of dads—Victor Wallace as Sam, Rob Marnell as Harry, and Jim Newman as Bill—sauntered onto the stage, the narrative unfolded like a reunion of old pals even though they had never met. Their individual charms blended seamlessly with Donna’s story, creating a connection that resonated throughout the audience – both the good and the bad.

The younger generation, Alisa Melendez as Sophie and Grant Reynolds as Sky, brought fresh and vibrant energy to the story. Their love story, portrayed with innocence and authenticity, became the beating heart of the performance, captivating the collective soul of the theater.

And then there was the music—the pulsating heart of Mama Mia. ABBA’s classics, from the evergreen “Dancing Queen” to the soul-stirring “I Have a Dream,” reverberated with a passion and precision that captured the very essence of the band’s timeless appeal.

Anthony Van Laast’s choreography was a masterpiece, each dance number an exquisite display of energy perfectly synchronized with the infectious beats of ABBA. The costumes and sets transformed the Eccles Theatre into a sun-soaked Greek island, a visual feast that heightened the overall sensory experience. The meticulous attention to detail, especially in the throwback costumes, added an extra layer of whimsy and nostalgia. ABBA’s classics were delivered with a passion and precision that paid homage to the band’s timeless legacy.

Special commendation is due to the artistic genius behind the scenes, director, Phyllida Lloyd, whose creative vision seamlessly brought MAMA MIA! to life. The direction and choreography were nothing short of a visual and auditory feast, turning this musical into an enchanting journey through ABBA’s greatest hits.

Many shows receive a standing ovation, although most do not have the audience jumping to their feet the minute bows begin. This show had everyone on their feet, and everyone remained standing through the fun recap of many of the songs. The room was abuzz with most people swaying to the music as they clapped. It was a night to remember!

For those eager to bask in the magic, MAMA MIA! continues its run at the Eccles Theatre, 131 Main St., Salt Lake City, UT 84111, until Sunday, December 24th. Snag your tickets by calling 801.355.ARTS. Trust me; this Greek odyssey is a musical escapade that will have you tapping your toes and humming ABBA tunes long after the final curtain falls.

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

I was provided complimentary tickets for the purpose of this review, however, all opinions are my own.

December 20, 2023

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