BWW Review: MAMMA MIA! Electrifies at Fox Cities P.A.C.
MAMMA MIA! opened at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center on May 12 and will continue to play through May 14. It is an effervescent, energizing and spirited show that is nothing short of delightful.
The show follows the misadventures of a group of dynamic characters on a Greek island. A young woman, Sophie Sheridan, is about to get married. She wants her father to attend, but there is a hitch in her plan - no one knows who her father is. So instead of inviting one father, she invites three potential fathers. When her mother, Donna, finds out, feelings and memories from the past start to boil back up.
The centerpiece of Mamma Mia! is the catchy, familiar music. The show weaves Swedish pop group ABBA's famous tunes into the plot seamlessly. Songs like "Honey, Honey," "Dancing Queen," "SOS" and so many more not only entertain, they actually manage to progress the plot, which can be difficult for jukebox musicals to pull off.
Choreography by Anthony Van Laast adds to the energy of the show and also provides some great laughs, particularly in "Lay All Your Love on Me." Vibrant costuming and spot-on lighting create an immersive atmosphere and engulf audiences in the story.
Additionally, the cast plays beautifully off from each other.
Together, Betsy Padamonsky, Cashelle Butler and Sarah Smith (as Donna, Tanya and Rosie) make up the former girl group "Donna and the Dynamos." They are completely believable as friends, and each performer has an exceptionally strong, full voice. Betsy Padamonsky is sympathetic as Donna, while Cashelle Butler as Tanya and Sarah Smith as Rosie are an excellent comedic duo. Sarah Smith's superb physical comedy makes her a particular standout. She also pairs well with Marc Cornes, who plays Bill, and their duet, "Take a Chance on Me," is one of the funniest numbers in the show.
Each of Sophie's three possible fathers, Shai Yammanee as Sam, Marc Cornes as Bill and Andrew Tebo as Harry, is entertaining in his own right. Shai Yammanee as Sam is every bit the leading man with a powerful voice to match. Marc Cornes is hilarious as Bill, and he plays particularly well off Sarah Smith. Andrew Tebo is believable as headbanger-turned-banker Harry Bright and captures an earnestness that makes the character exceptionally likeable.
Lizzie Markson is wide-eyed and energetic as bride-to-be Sophie, while Dustin Harris Smith plays the role of Sky, her groom, with more humor than fans of the musical may be accustomed to for the role, making the character more engaging.
Don't be too quick to hustle out of the theater, or you may miss one of the best parts of the show. Stay after initial bows for a couple extra songs, which are so energetic and exciting, you just might find yourself dancing in the aisles.
MAMMA MIA! is one of the rare shows that you may very well want to watch on a loop. Rather than getting stale, it actually becomes acutely more craveable.
This tour is billed as the "farewell tour," so the only true disappointment of the show is that opportunities to see it will soon be limited. Let's just hope a revival isn't too far off.