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To the cast of Huntington Bank’s ‘Mamma Mia’...Thank You For The Music!

It’s Cleveland and winter is stuck in neutral with gray the oft repeated outdoor sky motif and upper 30s to mid 40s temps just cold enough to be uncomfortable without being dangerous. It is that time of year for “the great funk” where we shuffle forth waiting for the sun to return. What we need is a really great show to dispel those blues and the Huntington Featured Performance is just the ticket with the jukebox musical “Mamma Mia” making its seemingly perennial appearance at Playhouse Square.

With music and lyrics by ABBA performers, Benny Andersson and Bjӧrn Ulvaeus with some songs by Stig Anderson and book by Catherine Johnson it is the perfect mid winter treat to brighten up our lives and bring some color back to our faces.

Sophie Sheridan (Alisa Melendez) is twenty years old and three months away from getting married to Sky (Grant Reynolds) (“Prologue”). Raised in a taverna built by her single mother Donna (Christine Sherrill) on the Greek island of Kalokairi, Sophie has discovered her mother’s 20 year old diary that she shares with her two best friends, Ali (Haley Wright) and Lisa (L’oréal Roache) (“Honey, Honey”).

Of special interest are the passages concerning Sophie’s paternal parentage. Back in the 70s and in rather rapid succession Donna (the lead singer for a popular singing trio “Donna and the Dynamos”) had brief flings with three different men, or as the diary states “Dot-Dot-Dot”. Those three men: Harry Bright (Rob Marnell), Bill Austin (Jim Newman) and Sam Carmichael (Victor Wallace) have all been invited to the wedding. With each Dot-Dot-Dot it means that any of the three could be Sophie’s father. Unknown to Donna, Sophie invites all three to her wedding and all three unsuspectingly accept.

Days prior to the nuptials Donna begins receiving guests, including her long time best friends and back-up singers. There’s married and divorced three times Tanya (Jalynn Steel) who has done very well for herself and Rosie (Carly Sakolove) an unmarried free spirit. As the women catch up on their lives and conquests Donna laments about how hard it is to keep the taverna running single handedly (“Money, Money”).

The three potential fathers arrive and Sophie greets them. Sam is now a successful architect, Harry is a prominent British banker and Bill is an Australian writer and adventurer. Harry finds an old guitar that he had purchased “back then” and sings a song that Sophie joins in to (“Thank You for the Music”). Donna arrives expectantly and is shocked to see all three of her ex-lovers (“Mamma Mia”). Crying, Donna seeks the solace of her friends, Tanya and Rosie who cheer her up (“Chiquitita”). The two convince Donna that all is not lost and she can regain her youth (“Dancing Queen”).

Sophie had hoped that she would know her dad on sight but now is totally confused as to who is her father. She confesses to Sky what is happening. Sky is upset that she had not confided in him as his buddies ambush him for his bachelor party (“Lay All Your Love on Me”). Sophie has her hen party with Donna and the Dynamos donning their costumes to perform (“Super Trouper”). The three male potentials accidentally stop by and are invited to stay (“Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)”).

One by one Sophie singles out each man as she pours her heart out telling each why they were invited. Each man claims to be her dad and wants to escort her down the aisle as she unwittingly agrees to each. (“The Name of the Game”). All the men from the stag suddenly arrive to crash the hen party as the group joins in song (“Voulez-Vous”).

This is a top notch production. The cast is full of energy and in fine voice. Of special note is Alisa Melendez as Sophie and Christine Sherrill as Donna who have amazing singing voices. The men are no slouches either with great renditions during their solo numbers. The male ensemble cast does an uproariously funny dance routine wearing diving suits and swim fins. The six piece orchestra is superb, filling every corner of the theater with great music. Their opening chord at the start of the second act got everyone to jump. Be sure to stay for the end when the cast does a medley of show tunes.

This is the time of year when we all need a little pick me up and Mamma Mia is just the ticket. For many this may be a repeat but this cast brings a freshness that is irrepressible. Familiar songs that we all have grown to love combined with an engaging story line makes for a great night of musical theater. Take A Chance!

The Huntington Bank Featured Performance tour of “Mamma Mia” will be on stage in the Connor Palace Theatre at Playhouse Square through February 4, 2024. For more information and to purchase tickets go to or call (216) 241-6000.

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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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