BWW Review: MAMMA MIA! at the Hippodrome Theatre Hosts 'The Farewell Tour' Impressively
I have to admit it was a thrill to see the epic musical MAMMA MIA! return to the Hippodrome during their "Farewell Tour". Yes, I have seen it very often since my daughter Britt joined the Broadway company in May, 2002 and I never ever got tired out of it. It was a thrill to see her perform on the Tony Awards at Radio City Musical Hall. And yes, I thought it should have won over THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLE. But in any event, I knew it would be emotional for me to see this "Farewell Tour" one last time and it certainly was.
Even though the cast was Non-Equity, the performers were equal to the task. The packed Hippodrome Theatre demonstrated that Baltimore deserved more than just three days of MAMMA MIA!
MAMMA MIA! is certainly one of the most beloved musicals in the history of musical theatre.
The Swedish rock group ABBA bolted into world acclaim when it won the coveted Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with the hit song "Waterloo". ABBA beat England's Olivia Newton John. This contest is a huge event. When my wife and I were recently on the island of Mykonos , people were glued to television sets in bars and restaurants watching.
The musical premiered on April 6, 1999 in London, 25 years to the day since ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest.
The producers did not initially come to Broadway. They took a short detour to Toronto where it got rave reviews.
MAMMA MIA! was scheduled to open in October, 2011 at the Winter Garden on Broadway. Following the tragedy of 9/11, there was talk about putting off the opening. But the show was encouraged to open to give a little relief to the New York area and the engine is still running.
The story by Catherine Johnson is somewhat similar to the plot in the 1968 film "Buena Sera Mrs. Campbell" starring Sophia Loren in which a young woman who was conceived in Italy during World War II searches for her real father and there are three possibilities.
Johnson concocts a story about a 20-year old Sophie (the talented newcomer Lizzie Markson) who lives on a Greek island with her single mother Donna (a powerful Betsy Padamonsky) who is in the process of adding a casino to her tiny taverna.
The musical occurs over a two day period in which preparations are being made for Sophie to marry Sky (the handsome Dustin Harris Smith). After reading her mother's diary, Sophie previously learned she may have three possible fathers and decides on her own to invite them all to her wedding so she can discover who is her real dad.
You can only imagine her mother is not too pleased about this scenario. Donna only has invited two of her old friends who made up a disco "girl" band "Donna and the Dominos". The two other female members of the old group are Tanya (Cashelle Butler) and Rosie (Sarah Smith). They each have big numbers: Tanya's is "Does Your Mother Know) and Rosie has "Take A Chance on Me."
The three possible dads are comprised of Sam Carmichael (the powerful Shai Yammanee who sings the anthem like "Knowing Me, Knowing You"), Harry Bright ( Andrew Tebo who nails "Take a Chance on Me" with Rosie) and Marc Cornes as "headbanger" Bill Hayes.
The most poignant song of the show is "Slipping Through My Fingers" sung by Donna as her daughter is getting prepared for the wedding. Padamonsky nails this emotional number. Composer Bjorn Ulvaeus stated he wrote the song about his daughter and his mixed feelings about seeing her grow up. Bring tissues for this one.
Markson as Sophie excels in her numbers like "I Have a Dream" (the opening number), "The Name of the Game". and "Thank You for the Music".
A film was made in 2008 that starred Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan as Donna and Sam. But what that film lacked is the amazing ensemble of dancers that dance to the great and clever choreography by Anthony Van Laast which makes MAMMA MIA! the huge success it is. Their strong voices and athletic moves are just stunning here and they deserved a great ovation.
The "mega mix" after the bows brought down the house. Yes there were people dancing in the aisles (including my wife and me) to the hit songs "Dancing Queen", "Mamma Mia" and the one song NOT in the show "Waterloo".
I've always found it interesting that the program lists the musical numbers alphabetically so as to not let the audience start singing along before a hit song begins.
This 20 member cast pours their hearts out and is just so full of energy that audiences continue to love this show. If you've seen it before, see this current production. If you have never seen it, you must attempt to see it in person. You will not regret it.
Check out www.mammamiaontour.com for the list of cities for this "Farewell Tour" and to see videos of the cast. The tour at the moment goes until August. For my Boston friends and family, it will be play there from May 30 to June 4.
THIS AND THAT
You may recall Arena's successful DEAR EVAN HANSEN from last season. It is now a huge hit on Broadway and has sold out every performance since previews began in November, 2016. Pick up this week's Entertainment Weekly (January 20, 2017) for a nice spread on the show. And congratulations to composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul for winning the Golden Globe for Best Song (they did the lyrics) for "LA LA Land" which may make it to Broadway soon.
While TITANIC continues to "sail on" at the Signature Theatre until January 29 (do not miss it), the ship will be the subject of a new documentary on the Smithsonian Channel on January 21, 2017.
Finally, acclaimed actor Paul Giamatti comes to Coppin State College January 21, 2017, James Weldon Johnson Auditorium, 2500 West North Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21216 at 7:30 p.m. for a production of ANTIGONE IN FERGUSON. This dramatic reading is supported by a gospel choir. It is FREE.