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Hamptons Winter Theater Review: Center Stage's "Mamma Mia" Is Bursting With Energy, Entertainment, Excitement, And Enthusiasm

T.J. Clemente

The distance between Sam (Tom Rosante) and Donna (Mary Sabo) - The Winner Takes it All. (Photo: Dane Dupuis)

Energy, entertainment, excitement, and enthusiasm was abounding at the Southampton Cultural Center during the performance of Mamma Mia (the smash hit musical based on the songs of ABBA) that I recently witnessed. With a large cast the performance of this show was a winner because of many reasons - the first two being the performances of Ava Bianchi, who played Sophie Sheridan, and Mary Sabo, who played Donna Sheridan. They lit up the stage with song, pizazz and raw powerful talent. Talent that was expertly directed by Michael Disher whose Mamma Mia production heard the sweet sounds of heavy applause and thorough enjoyment throughout the evening.

However, a show like Mamma Mia has more than just two moving parts and with the musical direction of Amanda Jones, and choreography of Alyssa Kelly, the moving parts where actors weave through the songs and lyrics of Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, they do so in new creative ways that connects the show's story to the popular hit songs of Abba.

It is important to say a few words about each member of the cast because a production of a show like Mamma Mia on Broadway cost millions of dollars to produce. The folks at Center Stage presented a billion dollar's worth of zeal, enthusiasm and energy instead of money. Everyone used their talents to deliver the two plus hours of pure entertainment that made this production a show the audience loved.

Alyssa Kelly (Tanya) and Julie Crowely (Rosie) along with Mary Sabo rock the house particularly with their three numbers: Chiquitita, Dancing Queen and Super Trouper.

Tom Rosante (Sam) and Jack Seabury (Harry), along with Rich Gardini (Bill), have their moments. I especially enjoyed their rendition of Thank You for the Music, with Ava Bianchi.

Sam Terry (Sky) dashed about the stage in such a manner the woman next to me whom I did not know said to me, "I just love his dimples!" Tina Marie Realmuto always brings a unique energy to Center Stage productions. Her performance of Lisa once again exhibited why she is always visible on stage. Michele Marks (Ali), along with James Kelly as (Pepper), were wonderful as was Amanda-Kyle Summers as Eddie. The audience especially loved Marco Barilla's performance as Father Alex.

Then there were the "Islanders" who danced, sang and performed their hearts out to make the show flow throughout the night. Kudos and accolades to Linda Aydinian, Katrina Lovett, and Kristen Teuber, Kristin Whiting and Josephine Wallace, along other members of the cast already mentioned.

In every show there is a talent that rises above all the others and to me that had to be the voice of Ava Bianchi. I would pay good money just to sit and hear her sing all night. She has a future with song on stage. She mesmerized the audience with her talent, her gift, and her wonderful voice.

A final salute to director and East End treasure Michael Disher who has taken on many tough challenges these last few months. Hearing the sweet sounds of success via the applause and joy of the Mamma Mia audiences only enforces his powers of vision, will, trust and hard work.

Mamma Mia! can be seen through Sunday, March 24 - with performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

General admission is $30, while student tickets (under 21 with ID) are $15. There will also be dinner/theatre packages at the Plaza Café and Claude's, as well as brunch/theatre packages at Edgewater before the Sunday matinees.

Southampton Cultural Center is located at 25 Pond Lane in Southampton. For more information, call 631-287-4377 or visit www.scc-arts.org.

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