If you try to search for meaning, much less a logical story line, in “Mamma Mia!,” the ABBA-based musical now playing at the Southampton Cultural Center, you’re going to drive yourself crazy. Better to go in knowing that Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus’s brainchild — which loosely strings together a bunch of already classic ’70s pop hits from the Swedish sensations — works a lot better if you leave your brain in your Ford Pinto, put on your platform shoes, and just get ready to “feel the beat on the tambourine, oh yeah.” (Now you’ll be singing that all day. You’re welcome.)
If you must know the flimsy fantasy tale, think of the smash hit TV miniseries “Lace,” but in reverse. Instead of “Which one of you bitches is my mother?” sweet Sophie Sheridan, who lives on a remote Greek isle with her single mother, Donna, wants her father to walk her down the aisle at her wedding — she just doesn’t know who he is. So, after perusing her mother’s diary, and singing the zippy ditty “Honey, Honey” with her bridesmaids, Sophie admits to sending invitations to the three men with whom Donna hooked up nine months prior to Sophie’s birth. (Hey, why be judgy? It was the ’70s, man.)
Never mind how she managed — without internet — to track down three men two decades later with complicated, unique names like Sam Carmichael, Bill Austin, and Harry Bright. What did I tell you? Now go put that cerebellum back in your AMC Gremlin, pull up that tube top, and just stop thinking.
Also present for Sophie’s wedding are her intended, Sky, and Donna’s backup singers from the way-back machine — Rosie and Tanya — along with other assorted Grecian isle characters who help Donna with her struggling hotel business. Who really is Sophie’s father? Who cares? You know it’s got a happy ending, right? No Grecian tragedy here.
Director Michael Disher is not alone in his adoration for this dopey dollop of Broadway fluff; the theater was packed on a Sunday matinee, the rest of the run is almost sold out, and the audience, of all ages, were tapping their feet and moving their lips along with their favorite Top 40s like the eponymous title song, “S.O.S.,” “Dancing Queen,” ”The Winner Takes It All,” “Take A Chance On Me,” and others.
As to the production itself, there were bedazzling bright spots, namely the main characters. Ava Bianchi turns in an ebullient and lovely performance as Sophie, Mary Sabo is terrific as Donna, and Tom Rosante, who plays Sam, has a wonderful singing voice. Alyssa Kelly is funny as Tanya, one of Donna’s many-married friends, and Marco Barrila provides laughs as the priest at the wedding.
The real star of the show, although you never see her, is musical director Amanda Jones, who conducts a slamming band offstage, comprised of Jones, Kyle McGann, Douglas Baldwin, Kyle Sherlock, Joseph Freyre, and David Elliot, who kept the crowd rocking from beginning to end.
So what if the choreography is a little over ambitious, and there’s the occasional flat note? This is community theater, man. Be there or be square. Center Stage provides an opportunity to bring people back to a simpler time and, as they used to say, have a nice day.
“Mamma Mia!” runs at the Levitas Center for the Arts at the Southampton Cultural Center through March 24. For tickets and further information, visit www.scc-arts.org.