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As ‘Mamma Mia’ ends its Good Company run, a salute to 4 talented women

Let’s hear it for the leading ladies of “Mamma Mia.”

When Good Company Players in January brought back the stage musical hit to Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater less than a year after it first played there, I opted not to write another review because so much of the production was the same. Yes, there were a few major cast changes, but the show’s energy, humor, gorgeous vocals and direction didn’t waver.

Pictured above: Emily Pessano, left, and Emma DenBesten in Good Company’s ‘Mamma Mia.’

As this second incarnation gears up for its final performances this weekend, however, I don’t want to miss the chance to lay some love on four women who make it special.

(The show closes with a matinee on Sunday, March 17.)

Emma DenBesten took over the role of Sophie since the 2018 version, and she is terrific. I really liked her as Janet in last fall’s “Rocky Horror Show” at Selma Arts Center, and she is a delight in “Mamma Mia,” both in terms of vocals and acting. Her Sophie feels pure and inspired, and the warmth she brings to the stage gives this production a certain golden glow.

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Good Company Players

Kay Wilkins, left, Emily Pessano and Paige Parker in ‘Mamma Mia.’

Kay Wilkins plays Rosie, one of the two best friends of Sophie’s mother. I thought she was great last time around, and she’s just as strong in the reboot. Wilkins has an uncanny ability of playing a character much older than she really is. (Rosie is old enough to be Wilkins’ mother. For those who saw her in last summer’s “Bring It On” at Selma Arts Center, she also has a knack for playing closer to her age as well.) Her strong voice and cheerful comic timing in “Mamma Mia” make her an audience favorite.


Related story: VOCALS SOAR IN GOOD COMPANY’S BIG-HEARTED ‘MAMMA MIA’ (April 3, 2018)

AND: LAY ALL YOUR LOVE ON THOSE BACKUP VOCALS, BECAUSE THEY’RE ONE OF THE STARS OF ‘MAMMA MIA’ (March 24, 2018)

Paige Parker returns as Tanya, the other best friend. When I reviewed the first production, I was a little grumpy about her performance. This time, everything about Parker’s performance clicked with me. Her “Does Your Mother Know?” is funny, sexy and impressively limber. Her group numbers with Donna (Sophie’s mother) and Rosie sparkle.

And then there’s Emily Pessano as Donna. I love her in this role. She’s ticked off at the world throughout most of the show, but on those rare occasions when she’s happy, her smile is as radiant as the Greek sun. Pessano brings a world-weary, doggedly determined, finely textured incandescence to Donna. “Slipping Through My Fingers” brought tears each time I saw it. And her gutsy, husky performance of “The Winner Takes It All” is one of those spellbound musical-theater moments where you might just forget to breathe.

To all four of you, then: It’s been a great run. As ABBA would say, thank you for the music.


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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com

Comments (2)

  • Jackie Ryle

    Thanks, Donald. It really was wonderful. Always appreciate your views and comments!

    reply
  • Margie Vogt

    I totally agree, these ladies were superb!

    reply

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