KPBS AIRDATE: August 15, 2003
Short run. Good fun. If you like your musical or comic theater on the light side, “Mamma Mia! You don’t have to Nickel and Dime it — this is the week for you.
The international megahit, “Mamma Mia!” just discoed its way into the Civic Theatre and, whether you like the songs of ABBA or not, the show is irresistible. Set in Greece, it wraps a loopy love story around 22 songs by the top-selling ’70s Swedish sensation, ABBA, from the title tune and “Dancing Queen” (both of which will undoubtedly stay rooted in your mind for days… kinda like the Barney song) to all those repeat-lyric tunes like “Honey, Honey,” “Money, Money” and “Gimme Gimme,” as well as top 40 favorites like “Take a Chance on Me” and “the Winner Takes it All.” The best thing about the show, besides its enormous vitality and outrageous costumes, is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There could’ve been a lot more dancing, but the cast is great, and it’s especially fun to see the San Diego connection — Ellen Harvey — the tall, agile, comic triple-threat daughter of Mike and Anne-Charlotte Harvey, long-time theater professors at SDSU. With her short, stumpy sidekick, Robinn Baxter, Harvey is a hoot; they have all the comic shtick in the show. The 9-piece band — all keyboards, guitar and percussion — sounds ultra-electronic, but keeps the energy up and gets the audience on its feet and singing along at the end.
On a truly local note, Star-100’s morning DJ, Jerry Cezak (1/2 of the popular team of “Jeff and Jer”) has written and directed a comedy about a drive-time DJ duo whose 30-year show, San Diego’s most popular radio program is being cancelled. Part autobiography, and probably part personal Fear Factor, “Nickels and Dimes” tells of the rise of Johnny Nickels and Donnie Dimes and their cross-country journey from Pittsfield, Maine to San Diego stardom. There are plenty of laugh lines, though they’re not all original, but fans just eat it up. The KA stars, antic comic actors Barry Pearl and Jerry Kernion , play off each other as if they had been together for years. The local talent provides super support — the silently hilarious, wig-changing Ron Choularton, the ever-droll Jimmy Saba and Annie Hinton as a clueless, over-protective mom and a hippie producer who got the guys to can their regular repartee (“Playin’ the hits while you’re sprayin’ your pits”) and just be themselves on air. The play is structurally flawed, and not always uproarious; in fact, the more serious, issue-driven moments are the strongest. But Cezak’s got an ear for snappy dialogue and rat-a-tat timing. Plus, most of the proceeds go to his foundation for animal rights. So I guess “Nickels and Dimes” makes cents.
I’m Pat Launer, for KPBS news.
©2003 Patté Productions Inc.