What the critics are saying:


"Mamma Mia!" I think I'll go again! To Center REP, Walnut Creek


Millenial Notes
Director Marc Jacobs Gives Us an Idyllic Summer of Love

By Carly Van Liere

Posted: 09/10/2018

In our constant assault of breaking news and conflict around every corner, we need some time off to remember fun in the sun. Well, we found it at Center REP. "Mamma Mia!' gives us love, friendship, spectacular visual aesthetics, and blissfully nostalgic ABBA tunes.

The story revolves around twenty-year old Sophie (radiant Giana Gambardella), who aims to invite her biological father to her wedding. But when she consults her mother's diary from the year she was born, Sophie discovers three possible dads. Her solution? Invite them all!

Bright, beachy aesthetics frame the mother-daughter chaos that unfolds on their Greek island. Designer Kelly James Tighe's stage set shimmers with bright blue-painted Santorini domes, a mountainous coastline, and glowing houses as the sun goes down.

Kurt Landisman's lighting design reflects the ocean waves in psychedelic colors. Maggi Yule's vibrant and flattering costumes capture Mediterranean summer with flowing sundresses and Hawaiian shirts. Sparkly jumpsuits emerge like disco balls at a dance party. Jeff Mockus' sound desgn has us tapping our feet.

Gambardella’s Sophie oozes genuine discovery and enchantment. She marvels at each fatherly possibility as the clueless dudes arrive on the island, and trigger our nostalgia for young love, as she frolics the beach on the eve of her wedding.

Sophie’s cool mom Donna (sympathetic Lynda DiVito) respects her daughter’s engagement, despite her own sexually adventurous youth. DiVito brings a poised sense of humility to Donna; we feel her embarrassment as she hides from her three former lovers.

Donna’s two besties cavort with silly antics and rockin’ vocals, to cheer up their humiliated friend. Calm and collected, but with a wild streak, Rosie (fiery Leanne Borghesi) adds reason and spunk to the mix. Sultry Tonya (hilarious Alison Quin) wears big sunglasses, dragging a comically large suitcase.

Swatting away younger suitors, Tonya channels Samantha from Sex and the City. When Tonya and Rosie join Donna for hits like “Dancing Queen” and “Super Trouper,” they bring the house down with killer voices. Their years of friendship with Donna make us smile, as they all embrace.

We live in an extreme society. Relationships totter and barriers rise with polarizing rhetoric. “Mamma Mia!” reminds us of acceptance, love, and understanding, belting our favorite dance tunes along the way. Marc Jacobs’ “Mamma Mia!” is a tight show with stunning visuals and moving performances all around. I want to see it again!



Center REP's "Mamma Mia!" is a Rockin' Musical Delight!

By Jan Miller

Posted: 09/08/2018


Center REPertory Company’s theatrical season at Walnut Creek’s Lesher Center for the Arts (1601 Civic Drive) recently opened with a resounding staging of the popular musical “Mamma Mia!”, currently playing through October 7. Seriously, is there anyone who likes the music of ABBA who wouldn’t like this stage production? I think not! While there is such pleasure in hearing one’s favorite ABBA tunes sung into a narrative in rather preposterous ways, with lyrics to Dancing Queen insisting that ‘you can dance, you can jive,’ the real pleasure is how the show is presented by such a talented ensemble cast. The trio of Lynda DiVito (Donna), Alison Quin (Tanya), and Leanne Borghesi (Rosie) light up the stage with their collective singing prowess, comedic talents, and overall flair and energy. They are a collective delight!

Others in the cast who deserve standing accolades include Noel Anthony (Sam Carmichael, one of Sophie’s potential dads) for his wonderful singing voice, Giana Gambardella (Sophie) for her overall acting and singing talents, John Ditto (Pepper) for his dancing style, as well as convincing actors Mark Farrell (Harry Bright, another of Sophie’s potential dads) and Keith Pinto (Bill Austin, the third of Sophie’s potential dads).

The creative team is outstanding, led by Director Marc Jacobs, Music Director Brandon Adams, Choreography Robyn Tribuzi, Scenic Designer Kelly James Tighe, and Costume Designer Maggi Yule.

Set on a colorful Greek island, the plot serves as a background for a wealth of ABBA songs. A young woman about to be married discovers that any one of three men could be her father. She invites all three to the wedding without telling her mother, Donna, who was once the lead singer of Donna and the Dynamos. In the meantime, Donna has invited her backup singers, Rosie and Tanya. As complications ensue from misunderstandings, Sophie and Sky's (Sean Okuniewicz) wedding and relationship may be jeopardized, while, finding what is truly in their hearts, many may discover the course of true love.

While the storyline may seem silly to some, it is told in a way that is just plain fun, with an upbeat vibe, and a great presentation of such ABBA hummable hits like “Dancing Queen,” “Take a Chance on Me,” and “The Winner Takes It All.

CenterREP really knocks this high-energy stage production of “Mamma Mia!” out of the park, accentuating fun and celebration, and therefore, is not to be missed!