Here we go again. And again. And again.

Since its 1999 premiere on the stage, “Mama Mia” has remained a popular token of musical theater, gaining even more acclaim following the movie version released in 2009. In fact, the popularity of “Mama Mia” reaches so far that the recitation of these facts is probably fruitless, for it is seems like everyone has seen a version of the story in one form or another.

Great Lakes Theater’s production of the show is a testament to why “Mama Mia” defies redundancy and captures the hearts of all.

Twenty-year-old Sophie is about to be married, and she wants her father to walk her down the isle — the only problem is she doesn’t know who he is. After reading her mother Donna’s diary, Sophie learns that she has three prospective fathers, each of whom she invites to her island wedding. As the men make themselves known on the island at Donna’s taverna, the mother of the bride-to-be panics, wary of digging up past relationships and finally having to acknowledge that she also doesn’t know who the father is.

The jukebox musical’s score consists solely of music by ABBA, the Swedish pop group whose feel-good songs were at the top of the charts from 1974 to 1982. The fun, playful story of “Mama Mia,” conceived by Judy Craymer and written by playwright Catherine Johnson, is a reflection of the songs and band.

Great Lakes Theater’s production comes only a few months after the release of a sequel film “Mama Mia! Here We Go Again.” While the demand of “Mama Mia” is always high, the sequel reawakened fans of the original story, as is proved by Great Lakes’s sold-out opening night show.

Director Victoria Bussert and her cast don’t let them down.

Bussert, the director of music theater at Baldwin Wallace University, filled the stage with students from the college, one of them being Kailey Boyle, who plays Sophie. From her first song, “Honey, Honey,” Boyle is a hit as the super sweet and likable young bride.

Five-year GLT veteran Jillian Kates is tough and powerful as the single mom, do-it-all Donna. Kates proves her prowess in the nearly back-to-back musical numbers, “Our Last Summer,” “Slipping Through My Fingers” and “The Winner Takes It All,” the last of which is remarkable.

Donna’s pre-wedding nerves are eased by her two friends, Tanya and Rosie, played by Jodi Dominick and Laura Welsh Berg, respectively. These two are absolutely fantastic with their hilarious antics and peppiness, especially in the songs they sing as they try to cheer up Donna, “Chiquitita” and “Dancing Queen.”

Possible fathers Harry Bright, Sam Carmichael and Bill Austin are played by Eric Damon Smith, Nick Steen and Alex Syiek, respectively. Each man is lovable in his own way, with Syiek’s erratic dancing stealing the show in the best way. One of the most pleasurable songs of the show is “Take a Chance On Me,” where he has a desire-fueled duet with Welsh Berg as Rosie.

From the costumes to the dance moves to the music, GLT’s show is a proper celebration of ABBA.

Jaclyn Miller’s choreography is such a pleasure, especially in the dance-fueled song “Does Your Mother Know,” where the dance-savvy Baldwin Wallace students shine. Costume designer Tracy Christensen dresses the cast in flowing florals, ruffles and, of course, flared pants.

Music director Matthew Webb’s fantastic eight-piece orchestra sits underneath Jeff Herrmann’s set design, featuring three Greek-inspired structures. Lighting designer Paul Miller and sound designer David Gotwald enhance the production so that everything looks and sounds wonderful.

Great Lakes’ “Mama Mia!” is pure fun. It’s a lighthearted, funny and thoroughly enjoyable night of theater. No matter how many times you’ve seen “Mama Mia” in the past, it’s certainly worth going to see again. And again.


WHERE:  The Hanna Theatre, 14th St. and Euclid Ave., Cleveland

WHEN:  Through Nov. 11

TICKETS & INFO:  $13 – $89, call 216-241-6000 or visit to

Photo Caption: Donna (Jillian Kates), Rosie (Laura Welsh Berg) and Tanya (Jodi Dominick) lead the ensemble in a dance party. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Gwendolyn is an arts journalist, media critic and aspiring author. She is a sophomore studying journalism and theater at Cleveland State University. She also reviews community theater for up to eight different newspapers in the Northeast Ohio area and has acted as a guest critic for the Cleveland Jewish News. As a member of the Cleveland International Film Festival Selection Committee, Gwendolyn has critiqued films for two years while also working as a stage manager for the Cleveland State Music Department. She loves reading, writing and the arts and she hopes to one day have a novel published.



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