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‘Mamma Mia’ brings joy at Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre returns from COVID-19 hiatus

July 3, 2022 Updated Sun., July 3, 2022 at 10:10 p.m.

Callie McKinney Cabe (Rosie), Heidi Santiago (Donna) and Amy D’Orazi (Tanya) star in Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre’s production of “Mamma Mia!”  (Courtesy photo)
Callie McKinney Cabe (Rosie), Heidi Santiago (Donna) and Amy D’Orazi (Tanya) star in Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre’s production of “Mamma Mia!” (Courtesy photo)

There are so many things to like about “Mamma Mia,” the opening show of Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre’s 55th season.

There’s the fact there’s a show at all, and that the company survived a two-year COVID-19 hiatus.

There’s the location, the spacious Schuler Performing Arts Center on the North Idaho College campus, after six years at the lovely but much, much smaller theater at the Salvation Army Kroc Center.

There’s the return to the stage of so many faces familiar to area theatergoers. Callie McKinney Cabe, reprising her role of Rosie from Aspire Community Theatre’s staging of “Mamma Mia” in 2019, has appeared with pretty much every theater company in the region. Daniel Bell, a frequent performer in Coeur d’Alene in shows such as “Les Miserables,” “She Loves Me,” “All is Calm,” “All My Sons,” “Assassins” and “Sweeney Todd,” is the architect Sam Carmichael. Amy D’Orazi, whose previous CST credits include Laurey in “Oklahoma!” and Babbette in “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” vamps it up as Tanya. Then there’s Heidi Santiago, who was in CST’s “Marvelous Wonderettes” and “Addams Family,” and Spokane Civic Theatre’s “Hello, Dolly,” as she takes on the lead role of Donna.

Mostly, however, there are all those irrepressible ABBA tunes performed by energetic and capable performers. How can one not be happy listening to such hits as “Dancing Queen,” “Voulez Vous” and “Take a Chance on Me”?

Based on the long-running West End musical and set on an island off of Greece, “Mamma Mia” tells the story of Donna, who as a young woman had flings with three men and one of them fathered her daughter, Sophie (Dennie Thorpe). She now runs a taverna on the Greek island.

As Sophie’s wedding to Sky (Casey Weeks) approaches, she learns of the three men and decides to invite them to her wedding, unbeknownst to her mother, hoping to solve that question in her life. Sam is the man Donna truly loved, but he was engaged to another woman. After he left, Donna met up with Bill Austin (Sergio Dijiani), now a travel writer, and Harry Bright (Spencer Normington), then known as “Headbanger” and now a buttoned-up banker.

Donna’s former bandmates and best friends, the much-married Tanya and the never-married Rosie, come to the island for the nuptials. Both actresses shine. Cabe’s attempted seduction of Bill in “Take a Chance on Me” is a hoot. D’Orazi plays the rich Tanya with perfect pitch. A deft comedian and a fine singer, she drops one-liners with ease and her flirtations with the much younger bartender Pepper (a hysterial Daniel Renz) generate many laughs.

The three fathers also shine in their roles. As Harry, Normington is goofy and fun. Dijiani, as Bill, appears to have a great time dueling with Rosie in “Take a Chance on Me.” As Sam, Bell does some heavier lifting. He is a fine singer on great display in “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and “SOS.”

Of course the star is Donna. While Santiago could easily have been overshadowed by the dynamic Cabe and D’Orazi, she more than holds her own. Especially on “The Winner Takes It All, when Donna laments what could have been with Sam, Santiago shows great vocal skill and power. It’s a great performance.

Directed by Antoinette DiPietropolo and choreographed by Megan Ruth Smith, the show moves at a good clip. The ensemble shines in several of the production numbers, including the iconic “flipper ballet” of “Lay All Your Love on Me,” and the Act I ender “Voulez Vous.” The costumes, designed by Heather Roberts, were fabulous in all their ’70s disco glory.

The plot of “Mamma Mia” is paper thin, but it hardly matters. It’s about those ABBA tunes, written by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, sunny vibes and good times. And thankfully, Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre serves it all up in a boatload of fun.

”Mamma Mia” at Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre, reviewed Saturday night, continues through July 10 at the Schuler Performing Arts Center in Coeur d’Alene. For tickets or more information, visit

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct name of the actor portraying Bill Austin.

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