From left, Jessica Dee as Tanya, Heather Glenn Wixson as Donna Sheridan and Danica Carlson as Rosie in “Mama Mia!”  Photo by Matt Wyatt

Hackmatack Playhouse, now in its 48th season, is gleefully reveling in ’70s nostalgia with a rainbow of lamé and platform shoes.  ABBA has invaded the sleepy town of Berwick with a rocking rendition of “Mamma Mia!” that features six ABBA look-alikes, a 12-member cast and a five-piece band. One thing’s for sure: This quaint barn playhouse knows how to boogie.

The musical is set on a small Greek island where the taverna owner, Donna Sheridan (Heather Glenn Wixson), is preparing for her daughter Sophie’s (Shaughnessey Gower) wedding to Sky (Demetrio Alomar). Sophie wants her father to walk her down the aisle, but she has no idea who he is until she finds three possibilities in her mother’s old diary.  Pretending to be Donna, Sophie invites Sam Carmichael (Steven Leighton), Bill Austin (Rob Ross) and Harry Bright (Todd Fernald) to her wedding.  That’s when the fun begins.

“Mamma Mia!” is ultimately a vehicle for delivering ABBA hits, and set designer Hannah Joy Hopkins has crafted a creative, two-level set that allows young doppelgangers of ABBA’s Benny Andersson (Caldwell Lowell) Björn Ulvaeus (Colin Anderson), Anni-Frid Lyngstad (Megan Murphy), Agnetha Fältskog (Jemma Glenn Wixson), Birgitta Wollgård (Kylie Sanborn) and Lena Andersson (Krista Farrell) to jam and jive atop the taverna while the story unfolds below. No, the ABBA actors aren’t playing the instruments – they leave that to the talented pit band – but their vocals fill out the musical numbers and give the production a party atmosphere. Plus, they’re entertaining to watch dancing in spandex jumpsuits, go-go boots and kitty-cat mini dresses.

The musical is admittedly the theatrical equivalent of an ice cream sundae, topped with marshmallow fluff and sprinkled with glitter jimmies. It’s all part of the nostalgic fun, though, and ABBA fans wouldn’t have it any other way. Hackmatack has sweetened the decadent treat with a vibrant cast and catchy choreography by director Kelli Leigh-Ann Connors. “Money, Money, Money” is particularly well-choreographed, featuring the cast in black suits, with briefcases and oversized money.

Gower sparkles with infectious exuberance as the bride-to-be, Sophie. The musical theater major provides high, sweet soprano vocals on such ABBA hits as “Thank You for the Music” and “I Have a Dream.”  She could benefit from having her mic turned up for more rambunctious songs like the dream sequence “Under Attack,” but is a delight regardless.

When it comes to Glenn Wixson’s (Jemma Glenn Wixson is her real-life daughter) portrayal of Donna, the musical’s title says it all. She is funny, expressive and really knows how to belt out the songs with a rich soprano voice and impressive range. She shines on such well-known hits as “Dancing Queen” and delivers a show-stopping performance of the emotional “Winner Takes It All.”

Like his onstage love, Leighton stands out as Sam Carmichael. The Maine-based performer has been the frontman for the band Beyond Reason for 25 years and knows how to engage an audience. His tenor vocals effortlessly soar on such songs as “S.O.S.” and the gorgeous “Knowing Me, Knowing You.”

Ross and Fernald also deliver strong and thoroughly entertaining performances as Sophie’s other possible dads, Bill and Harry.  They are matched by the vivacious Jessica Dee and Danica Carlson as Donna’s best friends, Tanya and Rosie.

Alomar, Emily Whitlow, Katie Juster, Griffinn Gower and Jacob Less round out the stellar cast as Sky, Sophie’s best friends Lisa and Ali, and the taverna’s two-person staff, Pepper and Eddie.

“Mamma Mia!” is loads of fun and highly entertaining. Hackmatack’s cast will have you singing and dancing to the infectious score, and Fran Bechtold’s costumes are a sight to see. The production is a charming, smile-inducing trip back to the ’70s.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at

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