BWW Review: MAMMA MIA! at Broward Center For The Performing Arts
Broadway Across America - Ft. Lauderdale presents the Farewell Tour of the smash hit musical Mamma Mia! at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. The musical features the music and lyrics of ABBA, and was written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, with book by Catherine Johnson. Although the title of the musical is taken from the group's 1975 chart-topper "Mamma Mia," the plot is fictional rather than biographical.
The story of Mamma Mia! is about 20-year-old Sophie Sheridan, who lives with her mother Donna on the small Greek island of Kalokairi, where Donna runs a hotel called Villa Donna. Sophie is planning to marry her fiancé Sky, and wants her father to be present to give her away. Unfortunately, she does not know who her father is. After reading Donna's 20-year-old diary, she concludes he is one of three men: Sam Carmichael, Harry Bright, or Bill Anderson. Without telling her mother or fiancé, Sophie mails wedding invitations to all three. The men come to the island, thinking Donna asked them to come. Donna's two best friends have also come to the island for the wedding. They are the forever single and fun-loving writer Rosie, and the wealthy and pampered three-time divorcé Tanya. The three longtime friends were once an '80s singing group called "Donna and the Dynamos". The women bond in Donna's time of turmoil as Sophie's paternity is pondered. At the end of a frenzied weekend a wedding takes place, but perhaps not quite the one that was planned.
Markson is wonderful as Sophie. She maintains a fresh and earnest fell for her character, and of the leads, show the most commitment. Betsy Padamonsky is far to grim as Donna to ever make her the likable and disarming character she is meant to be. She honestly may have smiled three times in the whole show. She sings the part well, but without garnering the empathy of the audience, her emotional "The Winner Takes It All" doesn't hit home the way it should. She doesn't really establish a believable connection with anyone in the cast except Markson in the song "Slipping Through My Fingers". Cashelle Butler as Tanya and Sarah Smith as Rosie have some of the best lines in the show. Unfortunately, they don't land them all because they both over-act in the first half of the show, and their timing is sometimes mechanical. Both roles are comedically well written however, and the actresses rally for the second act.
Shai Yamnnanee is engaging as Sam though he has a hard time holding on to his accent. Andrew Tebo doesn't quite flesh out his character enough as Harry Bright who can be quite charming. Marc Cornes turns in a fun performance of former head-banger Bill Austin. He also has a nice moment or two with Sarah Smith in "Take A Chance On Me".
I loved the energetic dancing in this production, and thought the ensemble was especially strong. The orchestra sometimes overpowers the singers just a bit, and disappointingly, it appears that the ensemble is singing on top of pre-recorded vocal tracks in some of the scenes. I am not sure if the Broward Center was having lighting problems, but I don't recall this show generally being under-lit in so many scenes, making it hard to sometimes see the actors' faces, and leaving a dark spot down-stage just right of center. The spot light operator also had a bit of a shaky hand throughout the show. What can I say? I love the music to Mamma Mia!, and I always will. While this is still a good production, I expected more from this Farewell Tour of Mamma Mia! More joy, more exuberance, and more commitment than that which I saw on the night attended.
The musical Mamma Mia! opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on October 18, 2001, where it closed on September 12, 2015 after 5,773 performances. It received two Drama Desk Awards and five Tony Award Nominations. A popular movie version starring Meryl Streep was released in 2008 introducing a new generation to the music of ABBA, and sparking interest in the successful national tour of the musical.
ABBA skyrocketed to fame after winning a Swedish Eurovision Song Contest in 1972. The quartet was comprised of members Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Anni-Frid Lyngstad (Frida) and Agnetha Fältskog. They gained international popularity by writing songs with simple lyrics and catchy melodies, and offering a full but clean sound achieved by overdubbing the female singers' voices in multiple harmonies. ABBA broke up in 1982 having sold almost 400 million records world-wide. The group still sells two to three million records per year, and their songs remain on the most requested playlists of many radio stations.
Broadway Across America - Ft. Lauderdale is presented in arrangement with the Florida Theatrical Association, which is a non-profit, civic organization with a volunteer board of trustees established to ensure the continued presentation of quality national touring Broadway productions in the state of Florida. Broadway Across America is dedicated to creating memorable and accessible theatrical experiences for all guests, selling over five million tickets to first rate Broadway shows, family productions and other live theatrical events in over 40 North American cities each year. For more information or to purchase tickets through an authorized agent, please visit www.BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com.
Mamma Mia! appeared May 19 - 21, 2017 in the Au-Rene Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. For tickets and/or information on the many diverse offering of the Broward center for the Performing Arts you may contact them at 954-462-0222 or online at www.browardcenter.org. Tickets may also available in person through Ticketmaster by phone at 954-523-3309 in Broward County, in person at Ticketmaster outlets, or online at www.ticketmaster.com.
Donna: Betsy Padamonsky
Sophie: Lizzie Markson
Rosie: Sarah Smith
Tanya: Cashelle Butler
Sam Carmichael: Shai Yammanee
Bill Austin: Marc Cornes
Harry Bright: Andrew Tebo
Sky: Dustin Harris Smith
Eddie: Max Ehrlich
Pepper: Austin Michael
Lisa: Niki Badua
Ali: Chloe Kounadis
Ensemble: Joshua Taylor Hamilton, Matthew Janisse, Marcus John, Cori Cable Kidder, Gabriella Marchion, Luke Monday, Catherine Nickerson, Alicia Osborn, Carlina Parker, Yael Reich, Alex Sheets, Julia Cassandra Smith, Ian Taylor, Brian Whirehall
The actors and stage managers in this production are members of Actor's Equity Association, the union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
Photo Credit: Kevin Thomas Garcia