Monday, June 3, 2019

Mamma Mia! @ The Stage

Donna and the Dynamos
Allison F. Rich (Tanya), Adrienne Herro (Donna), Jill Miller (Rosie)
Courtesy photograph provided by The Stage in San Jose.

As an ABBA fan, I knew that I wanted to see Mamma Mia! playing at The Stage in San Jose even if my friends may jokingly say, Here We Go Again! Upon seeing the Broadway tour production at the Center for Performing Arts and watching every movie of its franchise, I know that The Stage would give its own take allowing every audience member to love its song and story.

The set of Mamma Mia! at The Stage in San Jose.
Photograph taken and with permission by John Huân Vu.
Sitting on the last row—also known as row 5—at The Stage, the simple stage was elegant on "an island sparkling in the iridescent blue of the Aegean in 1999." I was surrounded people from all ages from an elementary school daughter to two seniors going on their lovely date on a Sunday afternoon.

As the Overture starts, the five band orchestra is found playing at the center back part of the stage led by The Stage former cast member and now conductor, Martín Rojas Dietrich. Despite the small theater, the orchestra was able to deliver all the songs allowing an ABBA fan to feel the music resonating in their hearts.

Although I came in with high expectations, what really hit the musical out of the park were the three cast members that made Donna and the Dynamos (Donna, Tanya, and Rosie) including their delivery of the infamous song, "Dancing Queen."

Allison F. Rich, musical director and cast member, continues to deliver a solid performance as Tanya including her seductive flirtation with Pepper, played by Michael J. Wu, in "Does Your Mother Know." Jill Miller, who played Rosie, performed a great duet with Jeffrey Brian Adams, who played Bill, in "Take a Chance on Me" with a nod to some future BDSM.

Donna, played by Adrienne Herro
Courtesy photograph provided by The Stage in San Jose
Nevertheless, to round out the trio was a spectacular performance by Adrienne Herro who played Donna. From the first scene to the last, Adrienee Herro evoked Donna's character as a mother who is not only confused and frustrated but also loving and fun. The audience can relate to Adrienee Herro when she delivered her anguish in "The Winner Takes it All" for feeling cheated by Sam, played by Noel Anthony, to her elation in "Super Trouper." Personally, I can envision Adrienee Herro playing the character Diana in one of my personal favorite musicals, Next to Normal. She was a great actress!

I want to give a callout to the crew under Bethany Deal, Costume Designer, and Ge Jia, Costume Design Assistant, for creating the amazing costumes worn by Donna and the Dynamos along with the fathers (Harry, Bill, and Sam). Instead of doing the same costume style but with different colors, they used the same fabric and silver color but using different styles to represent each of the respective personalities. See the photograph of Donna and the Dynamos to understand why I loved their costumes. Heck, I'd love to buy any of the ones worn by the fathers!

Unfortunately, one of the things that made me really cringe throughout the show was when the ensemble and cast members were wearing masquerade masks. Although I could understand the significance to blend into the background, there are alternative ways such as the use of lighting, similar colored costumes, or maybe not even having them wear masquerade masks at all.

Despite my cringe, I was proud of the men who were willing to wear adorable flippers and go shirtless in "Lay All Your Love On Me" with Sky, played by Sam Saustine, and the boys, played by Michael J. Wu, Sean Okuniewicz, Vinh G. Nguyen, and James Zongus. Along with the girls played by Allison J. Parker, Brigitte Losey, Sarah Bylsma, Monica Moe, Brittney Monroe, and Tracey Shaw, the audience were engaged throughout the storyline including after the bows with some audience members standing (and dancing) to their final song!

It was a fun show and you can catch a performance playing from Wednesdays to Sundays now until July 7, 2019. You can purchase tickets online at The Stage website at or at their box office at 490 South First Street, San Jose, CA 95113, (408) 283-7141. Discount tickets are available for students and seniors. As a word of caution, this show may not be appropriate for everyone and discretion is strongly advised due to the some language, a lot of sexual innuendos, and taboo humor. I personally had some good laughs and I believe you will also too!

Written by John Huân Vu.

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