BWW Reviews: MAMMA MIA Serves Up ABBA HITS at Saenger

By: Jan. 17, 2015
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The one thing I love about theatre, especially musical theatre is that there is always something out there for everyone. There are musicals that can provoke tears or laughs depending on your mood, and there is always that one musical that makes you bounce in your seat.

For many, this musical is "MAMMA MIA," which is running this week at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans as part of its Broadway New Orleans series. White wedding dresses and silver sequins more or less sum up the experience, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

I have to admit that "MAMMA MIA" is not a favorite of mine. This is not due to any director or actor involved in any incarnation I have seen of the show, but rather due to the plot. Young Sophie Sheridan decides to find her father so that he may walk her down the aisle during her wedding. However, Sophie was conceived after a series of one night stands during her mother Donna's hayday as a pop singing sensation. Sophie has three potential fathers and not a clue to which one is the real deal. Add to that, Donna refuses to speak on the matter, and is shocked after discovering what her daughter has done.

With this brief synopsis, you have the makings of interesting drama, but I am left unsatisfied. I find it very difficult to believe that all characters involved would react as they do in the show. Perhaps I should take the show with a grain of salt, but I somehow doubt three very different men would consider a stranger they've only known for two days as their daughter.

The most convincing of the performances was Donna, played by Rebecca Mason-Wygal. Her character's tough nature showed through her performance, and out of all the characters, her reaction to the situation was my favorite. My one pet peeve though, was that I could not fathom why she did not just tell Sophie the truth and save the show from going around in circles. Again, this is more in regards to my problems with the overall plot of the show rather than the performance.

The role of Sophie is performed by Chelsea Williams, who draws sympathy from the audience as she tries to find the missing piece in her life. Mark A. Harmon, Michael Colavolpe and Jeff Drushal play the trio of Sophie's potential fathers, each one with their own distinctive personality. The comedy of the evening lies in Gabrielle Mirabella and Sarah Smith, as Tanya and Rosie, Donna's backup singers who still live out their glory days. Their shenanigans caused quite a few laughs.

Frankly, I could go without the plot that was made to connect song after song from ABBA's catalogue. The show is at its best when it embraces the fact that it is a tribute to the Swedish pop sensation. Throughout the 1970s, ABBA stood at the top of the charts with successive hits of upbeat tunes, but should a musical plot be formed from their hits?

From the looks of the audience members surrounding me, the answer to my question is yes. For lovers of the show, it brings them back to a time where they would dance their summer nights away in a local disco with big hair and even brighter outfits. Theatre has always been an escape for many people, and "MAMMA MIA" helps to transport people away from their daily struggles and remind them what it meant to be young, sweet, and only 17. People just really love ABBA in any shape or form. Word of advice, don't leave right away or else you'll miss what you really came to see.