This show is really all about Donna (Stephanie Roth) and she’s on a rollercoaster ride almost from the start of ‘Mamma Mia!’. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen

Great performances carry great story and music in Chemainus Theatre’s ‘Mamma Mia!’

Life imitates art in this fun show about a topsy-turvy love story on a Greek island

Great tunes and hilarious situations hold hands and dance their way through the Chemainus Theatre Festival’s production of Mamma Mia!

This year’s blockbuster at the theatre, which runs until Aug. 31, is just what you need to get summer’s party started.

If you didn’t already know, Mamma Mia! is built around ABBA music by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus. Yes, that music. The kind that gets your toes tapping and hips waggling, and that has inspired two generations of airband performers in showers worldwide.

No, it’s not the story of ABBA the pop band, but their music is used to tell the story of a young woman, Sophie (Alex Gullason), who has never known her father but who wants him to escort her down the aisle at her upcoming wedding.

Her mom, Donna (Stephanie Roth), was a wild, crazy chick in the days before the birth of her only child and Sophie has found her hidden diary of those days. Searching for a clue to her paternity, she discovers that she is looking at three possible fathers. So she invites them all to the Greek island where Donna owns a small hotel, and they’re on their way.

Mamma Mia!

Yes, the situation is fraught with possibility. And this show delivers. On all counts.

It takes a certain amount of guts to act out pop music: it’s made to be frothy, over-emotional, and sometimes downright silly. But it’s also great fun. And this talented group of actors is more than up to the challenge. They sing, they dance, they make you believe you’re on a Greek island, and they lead you tunefully through a solid story that has significantly more meat on the bone than you find in many musicals.

Of course, for many devoted Chemainus Theatre fans, hearing these songs will also be a trip down memory lane to halcyon days that could well have included a visit to a flower hung village in the Greek islands.

On with the show!

Donna has invited her closest friends to the wedding: Rosie (Jenni Burke) — a warm-hearted free spirit — and Tanya (Erin Ormond) — a divorce-weary socialite and cougar – and they’re more than ready for everything they find. For those Ormond fans out there, this is some of the best we’ve seen from this popular actor, and Burke more than fills a role she obviously enjoys.

Then, of course, there are the three potential fathers: Harry (Graham Coffeng) — a formal banker once known as ‘Head Banger, Bill (Kieran Martin Murphy) — a lone wolf writer who prefers to be out in the bush in preference to socializing anywhere, and Sam (Jonathan Winsby) — an architect who fell in love with more than the island when he first visited it more than two decades before.

Sophie’s fiancée, Sky (Colin Sheen), lively staff members from the hotel, plus friends of the bride round out the onstage cast. And, there’s a great crew playing high up in the rafters that will have you singing ‘Thank you for the music’.

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