BWW Review: MAMMA MIA at Fulton Theatre

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BWW Review: MAMMA MIA at Fulton TheatreThe Fulton Theater closes their 2018-19 season with the disco-infused, crowd favorite, Mamma Mia. Mamma Mia is the story of Sophie, a 20 year old bride-to-be who secretly invites three men to her wedding who may or may not be her biological father. Apparently, Sophie' mother, Donna had one Hell of a romantic month two decades ago, but has been in a dry spell ever since. Sophie goes about trying to find out the truth, all the while keeping her mother (and the men) in the dark about what seems to be wildly implausible circumstances.

If the plot sounds a little superficial and dumb, that because it is. However, that hasn't stopped the show from being one of the longest running Broadway musicals of all time, and it shouldn't stop you from going to see it. Mamma Mia is part wedding reception, part disco night club, and a lot of fun,

The story serves as a springboard to break into an extended set list from Sweden super-group ABBA. The characters not only sing the big hits like "Dancing Queen" and "Take A Chance on Me", but also some deeper cuts from their catalog. The nine-piece orchestra and six pit singers bring a vibrant sound to the production that is powerful, but never overpowering.

Katie Bates stars as the young Sophie Sheridon. Bates plays her with a manic energy and a sense of naiveté. While I was impressed with the pitch and volume of her voice, I was put off by its tone. Bates has a very high-pitched, squeaky sound. While the intent was probably to highlight her character's extreme youth, I found it distracting.

Christine Sherrill plays the role of Donna, Sophie's mother. Sherrill has played Donna before and it shows. She slips into the role with ease, and hits all the right notes of strength, confidence, and sexiness.

The three potential dads are played by Chuck Ragsdale, Fran Prisco, and Jeffrey Coon. They do the best with what they are given to work with. Coon, especially, demonstrates good emotional range. I was disappointed by a certain lack of payoff with their story, but that problem lies with the script, not the actors.

Donna's two best friends, Tanya (Megan Nicole Arnoldy) and Rosie (Charis Leos) also come along for the ride. Arnoldy is great as a cougar on the prowl. Leos's Rosie is the wacky free-spirit of the bunch. Leos is a longtime favorite on the Fulton stage and with good reason. She brings great energy and a dynamic presence to any production lucky enough to cast her.

Director, Marc Robbin keeps the action moving. There is a lot to look at on the set's three levels and he does a good job at using all of the space. Sometimes character reactions seemed overblown. The conflict of this show is relatively low stakes, so some of heavy emotional responses seem out of place for a disco jukebox musical.

Robbins's choreography was athletic and imaginative. His incorporation of unusual props like briefcases and swim flippers made the dance numbers highly memorable and very enjoyable. Kudos to Buddy Reeder, who served as Robbin's assistant director and choreographer.

Set and costumes were up to the Fulton's consist high standards. The three level Mediterranean resort setting was intricate and attractive. The ABBA inspired jumpsuits were a nice touch. They looked as good as the authentic ones I once saw at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

While it could use a little work, Mamma Mia is still an enjoyable night at the theater. Tickets, showtimes and more information can be found at the theater's website.

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From This Author Rich Mehrenberg