BWW Reviews: Tuneful, Colorful MAMMA MIA! Brings Lively Song and Dance to PPAC
Twenty-year-old Sophie Sheridan is getting married and, like most brides, she dreams of walking down the aisle on her father's arm. But this simple wish comes with one major challenge: Sophie has no knowledge of her father's identity. Her hardworking single mother, Donna, never speaks about the past, and the only clue Sophie discovers in Donna's old diary leads her to not one, but three potential dads.
So begins MAMMA MIA! a musical mainstay on stages worldwide since it first debuted in 1999. Sophie's search for her father and the madcap race to the altar that ensues make for an upbeat, feel-good story, buoyed by the hit songs of 70s super group, ABBA. Catchy arrangements of ABBA's familiar lyrics are very well-integrated into the storytelling and, though devoted ABBA fans certainly attend in force, this smart merger of narrative and song widens the show's appeal beyond that of an everyday jukebox musical.
This tour boasts a greatly-talented cast of actors, vocalists and dancers. Georgia Kate Haege is outstanding as Donna in every aspect of her performance. Haege has flawless comic timing, yet she ably depicts the deep hurts and broken heart Donna has hidden away for two decades. She also has a powerful, standout singing voice, and she gives terrific renditions of "Super Trouper," "The Winner Takes it All," and title song "Mamma Mia."
Chelsea Williams brings abundant sweetness to the stage as Sophie. In addition to her strong vocal performance, she has wonderful rapport with Haege and adorable interactions with the three men (Jeff Drushal, Mark A. Harmon, and Michael Colavolpe) playing her potential fathers. Carly Sakolove and Gabrielle Mirabella are highly entertaining as Donna's life-long friends Rosie and Tanya. Haege, Sakolove and Mirabella work especially well together, whether their characters are good-naturedly snarking at each other or teaming up to relive their girl-group days as "Donna and the Dynamos."
The cast shines in the engaging, if lightweight, storyline with some show-stopping song-and-dance numbers, from the Dynamos' improvised rendition of "Dancing Queen" to a Scuba gear-clad kick line ("Lay All Your Love on Me") to the high-energy audience sing-along at the close of the performance. The actors also share some heartfelt scenes - such as Donna and Sophie's bittersweet wedding day preparations ("Slipping Through My Fingers") - that ground the more colorful and silly moments in the musical.
A few key set pieces - specifically the versatile, two-part curved wall depicting Donna's Greek taverna - well serve the ebb and flow of the musical's plotlines. The pieces either stand alone to provide access points for character entrances or exits, or fuse together to create a seamless interior/exterior wall. MAMMA MIA! also has a rainbow of amazing costumes, including the island residents' bohemian chic styles, the wedding guests' varied array of hats and hues, and the glam rock-inspired costumes (complete with silver platform boots, ruffled bell-bottoms, and a multitude of sequins) donned by the Dynamos for Sophie's bachelorette party and for the show's finale.
MAMMA MIA! does run into problems, however, in its comedic content. A surprising number of young children were in the audience during the tour's press night in Providence, and for all its breezy playfulness, MAMMA MIA! is not a family-friendly show. Throughout the production, heavy innuendo and off-color situations are coupled with adult language; though played for campy, humorous effect, some scenes leave little to the imagination. MAMMA MIA! falls, at the very least, into strong PG-13 territory.
MAMMA MIA! plays the Providence Performing Arts Center through Sunday, March 16, 2014. Tickets can be purchased online at www.ppacri.org, by phone (401) 421-ARTS (2787), or by visiting the box office at 220 Weybosset Street, Providence, RI. Ticket prices range from $33-$70 and discounted rates are available for groups of 20 or more.
Photo by: Kevin Thomas Garcia