Review: Theatre by the Sea Returns with 'Mamma Mia'

by Will Demers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday August 23, 2021

Theatre by the Sea
Theatre by the Sea   

After being closed for almost two seasons, Bill Hanney's Theatre by the Sea has finally brought musicals back to the venue. One very popular one in particular: "Mamma Mia" — a feel-good show with recognizable music — is a good choice for them. Who doesn't know an ABBA song or two? It premiered in London's West End back in 1999; then Broadway in 2001, where it ran for 14 years. Safe to say it has some staying power.

But after virtually no theatre since March of 2020, are we ready to dive in? TBTS gives us back the experience with a slight difference: Masks for the audience members while in the venue. Since the theatre is a smaller one and social distancing isn't on the table here, masking up makes perfect sense and, frankly, the turnout was impressive. The show was perhaps going to please no matter what, but here the experience was turned up.

This production doesn't lack any of the show's signature fun, nor does it seem stale. In the plot Donna (Lexie Dorsett Sharp) is a single mother of Sophie (Sara Bartoszek), who intends to marry Sky (Markcus Blair) at Donna's idyllic Greek Island resort. Maybe it's just that actors have been out of work for so long, but the sense of community can be felt. Bartoszek, Blair, and the cast create such a camaraderie that they make this return to the musical theater a slam dunk. Both of Donna's besties and former bandmates, played here by Tiffani Barbour and Merril Peiffer, are so much fun to watch that it's easy to miss other goings on while each is onstage. 

Not that the ensemble isn't a group of talented and capable dancers, or the fact that the sets are flashy and colorful depicting the Island getaway where Sophie is having her wedding. As for the humorous plot, it concerns Sophie's search for the identity of her real father. There's Englishman Harry (Jesse Sharp, bright and funny), writer Bill (Al Bundonis, earthy and goofy), and finally Sam (David Elder, looking sharp and ready to get back Donna). While all of the singing voices aren't top notch here, the performers are so earnest it can be easy to overlook. 

Both Sharp and Bartoszek have great chemistry as mother and daughter, and mention should be made for supporting actors Tyler Dema as Pepper and Morgan Blachard as Eddie, who bring some physical comedic hijinks to these proceedings. As for the music, Bob Bray's direction is tightly wound, and Kevin Hill's direction and choreography fully utilizes his casts' capabilities.

"Mamma Mia" is a fun show to unplug yourself to, and boy do we ever need to unplug. Get a ticket if you're inclined to venture out with friends or family and have a grand time at the theatre.


"Mamma Mia" is currently running through September 5th at Bill Hanney's Theatre By The Sea (TBTS) 364 Cards Pond Road, Wakefield, RI 02879. For information or tickets for this and the upcoming 2022 season, call 401-782-8587 or visit www.theatrebythesea.com.