For The Union Democrat

Sierra Repertory Theatre opens its current season with an exuberant, dazzling production of “Mamma Mia!”

This show has been a smash success worldwide, and enjoyed a 14-year run on Broadway. Playwright Catherine Johnson took a number of songs from the repertoire of Swedish musical group ABBA and cleverly wove them into a charming mother-daughter tale set on a small Greek island.

This high-energy musical is skillfully directed and choreographed by Valerie Rachelle. With musical director John C. Brown, she has assembled a very fine cast of actors, singers and dancers to bring this story to life.

SRT favorite Becky Saunders masterfully plays Donna, an independent, single mother who operates a hotel and taverna on the Greek island of Kalokairi. As the play opens, plans are being made for the upcoming wedding of her daughter, Sophie.

In a winsome performance, Carrie Lyn Brandon plays Sophie, who has longed to find her birth father and decides to use the occasion of her wedding to determine his identity. She secretly obtains information from her mother’s diary, and unbeknownst to either her mother or her fiancé, invites three men from the past to her nuptials. Remarkably, all three show up.

Also arriving on the scene are Sophie’s bridesmaids, Lisa and Ali, energetically played respectively by Mandy Corbett and Natalie Graham.

Making the biggest splash with their arrival are Rosie and Tanya, two old friends of Donna. These two were formerly back-up singers in Donna’s trio, “Donna and the Dynamos,” and they know all about Donna’s past.

Cat Yates irresistibly plays Rosie a fun-loving, self-assured unmarried woman.

Brenda O’Brien plays Tanya with considerable flair. She is a stylish, thrice-divorced woman who is quite a hit with the men on the island. She is especially admired by Pepper, a worker at the taverna.

Jesse Graham, who plays Pepper, and Hanz Enyeart, who plays his co-worker, Eddie, give impressive comic performances and excel at the dance numbers.

The three potential fathers could not be more different. In a thoughtful performance, Alan Gillespie plays Sam, a divorced American architect. Russell Garrett amiably plays Harry, a somewhat reserved British banker who has changed a lot since his carefree youth. And, Kipp Moorman affably plays Bill, an adventurous writer. It takes the three men some time to figure out the purpose of their invitations.

In the meantime, when Donna and Sky, Sophie’s fiancé enthusiastically played by Bobby Cook Gallagher, find out they have been deceived, sparks begin to fly.

While all of this is worked out, the audience is treated to some remarkable musical productions. Among the many highlights are Saunder’s beautifully delivered rendition of “The Winner Takes It All.” And, Yates and Moorman’s boisterous interpretation of “Take a Chance on Me” is a comic delight. The playful, “Does Your Mother Know?,” where Tanya and Pepper square off, and “Voulez Vous” showcase the skills of the talented cast.

Rounding out the topnotch ensemble are Bethany Baderdeen, Lucas Michael Chandler, Quinn Farley, Shannon Gerrity, Derik Lawson, Zach Padlo, Reese Rush, and Kaitlyn Sage.

The buoyant and acrobatic choreography is exceptional through out the play.

The scenic design by Dana Moran Williams is simple, yet evocative of an idyllic landscape. Modular props representing the exterior and interior of the hotel make effective use of the available space.

The multi-hued and imaginative costumes by Rebecca Meredith perfectly complement the characters. Mike Sali’s bright, colorful and dazzling lighting adds just the right touch to the production.

With its infectious music, lively choreography and perfect comedic timing, this production of “Mamma Mia!” is a breath of fresh air. A delight from start to finish, it will likely have audiences leaving the theater humming its catchy tunes.

The play runs through Sunday, April 8, on SRT’s East Sonora stage. For tickets, visit or call (209) 532-3120.