‘MAMMA MIA!,” at the Joseph Rider Farrington Auditorium at Farrington High School, is fun and inspiring, brimming with love and loaded with character.
It ends a two-weekend run, with final shows at 7:30 p.m. today (Saturday, March 5) and 2 p.m. tomorrow (Sunday, March 6). Go if you can.
It’s a production lean on resources but keen on desire and pride. Led by director Miguel Cadoy III, a music teacher who also oversees an eight-member live orchestra, the show readily radiates and resonates with energy and purpose as, if you’ll pardon me, the adored Castle High School Performing Arts Center agenda launched by the late Ronald Bright, over the decades of his illustrious career. He was a mentor of Cadoy, who’s carrying on that spirit, planting seeds as he goes, but yes there are some rough edges here. No matter; “Mamma” exudes with personality and community vibes, indicative of the growth, acceptance and progress on this Kalihi campus.
Yo, Mamma! Many performers are first-timers to the FPAC stage, including Kaupali Aipoalani-Wong, who portrays Donna Sheridan (impressive, with a commanding voice and take-charge attitude), the mother who is the centrifugal force in this popular stage musical that has provided two films including a sequel.
However, its plot is razor-thin, involving daughter Sophie Sheridan (Janice Galiciano, also making her FPAC debut, and delightful with energy to spare), who is a bride-to-be who discovers mom’s diary containing info that one of three of her three suitors 20 years ago, just might be her dad. So natch, she secretly invites the daddy candidates to the Greek island site of the wedding, where all hell breaks loose.
The melodies are memorable pop and disco fodder composed by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus (with some tunes with Stig Anderson), the pillars of the ABBA discography and legacy, and yep, the urge to sing along and dance is constant. Infectious is the operative word.
Some critics of “Mamma Mia!” have been unnecessarily cruel, simply because the show is lightweight in character development but loaded with familiar songs generally described as a jukebox musical. But so what? Many know and can sing or hum along to such titles as “Dancing Queen,” “Super Trouper,” “Take a Chance on Me,” “Money, Money, Money,” “Mamma Mia!.” Audiences are wholly engaged in the phenom of ABBA, and we all know this isn’t Rodgers and Hammerstein and the “Sound of Music.”
Thus, a review of this production has to include a mention of the devoted audience, dominantly Kalihi-centric (school peers, family and friends, constant cheering and applauding for a favored performer or song, extending howls and hoots normally restricted to super stars. You’d think Meryl Streep was onstage.
Then again, several cast members – like Keith Kryzzler Cabbab as Harry Bright, Bernielle Isidro as Bill Austin, and Isaac Liu as Sam Carmichael, the trio of the possible father – generate isolated hurrahs for their musical numbers. That they have this kind of rapport and trust of spectators is amazing.
It’s a joy to spot budding talent in the lineup. Like Axle Munoz, as Eddie, an eighth grader at Kalakaua Middle School down the street from Farrington. He’s a charmer and focused in his supporting role, but displays dancing as well acting skills. You’ll recognize him, since he’s the shortest in the cast, and you’ll recognize his ability and agility, the kind of esprit that will enable him continue to grow and lead to major roles as he matures.
As a production staged in the era of the pandemic, it’s also worthy to note that the cast has a challenging accessory while on stage: the face mask. Everyone wears a plastic mask, clearly a safety measure, but this provides another layer of safety for all. From the audience, there’s another reaction: the plastic masks often reflect a shiny brightness due to the stage lighting.
It’s possible this is the first all-masked cast on any stage. So bravo, FPACers, for being pacemakers.
Justin Garde is musical director of the ork, located centerstage in the back, and yes, live is better than pre-recorded tracks, so give the company a bonus point. Aubrey Lee Staley is choreographer, with the arduous task to make non-dancers dance. Costumes by Nadia Amian, Rachelle Ramirez and Jade Glover reflect Hawaii on occasion (think surfing shorts) and the ABBA-style gear (scalloped bell bottoms, oversized capes); slim budgeting disallows more of the kind of elegant and vintage costumes inspired by the Swedish group.
The set – two structures with stucco-style Mediterranean architecture — provide a warm suggestion of sun-kissed Greece. And it works, though shuffling a bed on and off stage is no easy chore. These are minor issues considering the outpouring of joy from the stage and the aloha extending to the stage, even from way up in the back of the auditorium.
Facemasks are required and usual admission protocols remain; vaccination cards and picture ID. Seating is assigned as you enter, with social distancing spacing.
Tickets: $10 adults, $5 students 5 to 17, $3 Farrington students with ID; available at the door at showtime or in advance at SHOWTIX4U.COM
And that’s Show Biz. …