photo courtesy: Vanguard University Theatre Department
Written by Patrick Chavis
There’s more to life than Amazon Prime and Netflix. If you’re not the typical Broadway or theater person, you could easily miss a lot of excellent material. Mama Mia is not one of those shows — though it has been around for decades and spawned two successful movies. Most people, even outside of the theater community, know the story of Mama Mia. Whether you like it or not, there’s something about Mama Mia that keeps people coming back for more. Vanguard University’s rendition of this classic Broadway musical leans into the material with gusto. While nothing is drastically different to bring in new fans, devoted fans of the material will enjoy this college production of their beloved Mama Mia!
When you walk into the Lyceum theater, you’ll see the full pit of musicians in the top right-hand corner. The theater has stadium-type seating, so you’re walking upstairs and looking down on the stage in the front. The set has distinctive white and blue colors associated with Greece, and the architecture in the background follows a typical Greecian look. The lighting seemed pretty even throughout, nothing too surprising from my recollection.
I love the movement and energy in this production. I’ve noticed in past productions, Vanguard utilizes the space to the fullest. There were even moments when the actors would use the rows and perform behind the audience. This is something performers and artists need to get used to because there are way more small theaters than big ones like the Segerstrom. With limited space, you need to get creative to put on a good show.
The music in Mama Mia is the music of ABBA (a famous, Swedish pop group from the 70s), so you either like ABBA or you don’t. The house band, led by Music Director Scott Cokely, performed the accompanying music.
When it comes to singing, it’s easy to get very picky. There were moments when you wanted the singing projected better. When the singers projected well, the vocals were clear, and the message and emotion were communicated well. These students have vocal training, and it’s undeniable you can hear the difference when it’s not there.
To me, Mama Mia is not a life-changing show. It’s fluffy, but it can be good in its fluffiness. I think the director, Nikki Snelson, went all-in with the fluffiness. The actors have a good time dancing, doing flips, and getting goofy on stage.
Across the board, there’s a consistent level of acting from these students. I was particularly impressed with Anthony Klinner, who plays Sam Carmichael. I think he played the character with an appropriate attitude for this specific character, and his singing was solid on the night I went. Logan Cranford’s Tanya was fun, and she did an excellent job with the character in most of her scenes. How can I not mention the firecracker that was Rosie Mulligan, played by Anabella Sanford. She added a good amount of energy to every scene she was in.