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BWW Reviews: Take a Chance on Them: MAMMA MIA! Hits DC's National Theatre

In the summer of 1999, I was directing a travesty of a Fringe musical. One day at rehearsal, Tonya Doran - a member of our cast, told us all she'd be joining the original Broadway cast of a new show based on the music of ABBA. It was Mamma Mia.

BWW Reviews: Take a Chance on Them: MAMMA MIA! Hits DC's National Theatre
Gabrielle Mirabella, Georgia Kate Haege and Carly Sakolove in Mamma Mia!
North American Tour. (Photo: Kevin Thomas Garcia)

Now, what person born in the 70s or 80s doesn't love a good ABBA tune? I recall seeing the original cast, knowing fully that this show would be corny as hell and I didn't care - because I knew I'd get to hear those songs sung beautifully by a top-notch cast.

The good news is, fifteen years later the songs are still being sung beautifully. The touring company that is briefly visiting the nation's capital sure enough has the audience dancing in the aisles by the time they wrap things up.

The challenge is, it's a bit of a bumpy journey getting there.

What I loved most about the original production was the fact that the direction was unapologetically campy, the choreography not terribly imaginative, but fun and silly and the cast played their roles with an earnestness unmatched. It seems after seeing the current national tour, the tongues have been planted a little too firmly in cheek and mugging to the audience has taken the place of sincerity. This has the effect of sometimes making you feel like you're watching a children's theatre production.

Don't get me a wrong. You will have a wonderful time at this show. It's a very talented group of folks onstage working their asses off and having an amazing time doing it. It just feels at times that they're all in different shows.

The cast is mostly strong, led by Chelsea Williams as Sophie and Georgia Kate Haege as her put upon mom, Donna. Williams gets the sincerity part just right and she sounds beautiful on the tunes. Haege as Donna has the pipes for sure, but is a bit more challenged in some of her scene work.

Other standouts include Gabrielle Mirabella as Tanya and Carly Sakalove as Rosie. As Donna's best friends, both contribute the necessary humor to carry the scenes whenever they're onstage. Sophie's Dads were a mixed bag at times, making me grateful for the stunningly beautiful baritone of Jeff Drushal as Sam Carmichael. And in the category of thankless roles filled by a performer I couldn't wait to come back to the stage, the clear winner is P. Tucker Worley as Pepper.

Overall, this production of Mamma Mia! provides a fun and satisfying evening that will get you dancing on your feet to some of the greatest earworms of a generation. Mamma Mia! plays at the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW through March 9th. Tickets can be purchased at: http://thenationaldc.org/events/mamma-mia/.

Photo Credit: Kevin Thomas Garcia

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Jamie McGonnigal Jamie McGonnigal has produced and/or directed more than 200 Broadway concerts and events including Children of Eden (NYC Premiere), Pippin with Rosie O'Donnell and Ben Vereen, The Secret Garden with Laura Benanti, Will Chase and Steve Pasquale, Rags starring Lainie Kazan and Carolee Carmello, Snoopy with Sutton Foster, Christian Borle and Hunter Foster, The Embrace Concerts benefiting the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Broadway Loves the 80s at Joe's Pub and The Nightlife Awards with Chita Rivera, Betty Buckley and Mike Nichols. As a voice actor, Jamie can be heard on dozens of cartoons and video games including Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Viva Pinata. Following a summer in Namibia and South Africa helping lead the UN's HERO campaign with rural AIDS affected communities, he returned to begin work on social justice campaigns. Having launched the LGBT blog TalkAboutEquality.com, Jamie now lives in Washington D.C. and is the Community Director for the New Organizing Institute. Jamie is a frequent contributor to HuffingtonPost and can also be heard frequently on SiriusXM's The Agenda on Progress 127 speaking about progressive issues in the media.


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