BWW Review: MAMMA MIA at Altria Theater

BWW Review: MAMMA MIA at Altria Theater
MAMMA MIA! Farewell Tour by Kevin Thomas Garcia

For two nights only, the "Farewell Tour" of MAMMA MIA brings the beloved jukebox musical back to Richmond. The Altria Theater is the second to last stop on the 10-month "final" American tour for this crowd-pleasing production. While first night audiences find delight in ABBA's chart-topping tunes, Catherine Johnson's witty one-liners, and Anthony Van Laast's energetic choreography; some of the lead performances show the fatigue of the nearly yearlong stint.

Twenty year old Sophie Sheridan (Lizzie Markson) is set to get married to her fiancé', Sky (Dustin Harris Smith). As tradition goes, she wants her dad to walk her down the aisle. There's just one problem...Sophie doesn't know who her father is. Through an old diary she discovers that her free-spirited mother, Donna (Betsy Padamonsky), had flings with Bill Austin (Marc Cornes), Sam Carmichael (Shai Yammanee), and Harry Bright (Andrew Tebo). Donna's two best friends, Tanya (Cashelle Butler) and Rosie (Sarah Smith), are helping to prepare for the wedding. As her potential fathers begin to arrive, things aren't as clear as Sophie thought they would be.

The scaled-down version of the Smash Broadway Musical uses non-Equity performers, a small live band, and a reduced set. The limits of the set are most noticeable when the ensemble "pops up" during the title song.

Together, the large ensemble is terrific and shines during large dance numbers like "Voulez-Vous," and "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!"

As Donna Sheridan, Betsy Padamonsky never quite connects with the audience or her acting partners. Her vocals, while at times lovely, do not have the power or support to fill the large Altria Theater. She does, however, have a shining moment with the powerhouse ballad "The Winner Takes it All." While Lizzie Markson gives a thoughtful performance, her vocals show wear and some pitchiness throughout.

Andrew Tebo, Marc Cornes and Shai Yammanee each have endearing qualities and show off clean vocals as Harry, Bill and Sam, but Cornes outshines the other men with great physical comedy.

Cashelle Butler's Tanya and Sarah Smith's Rosie bring the production to life when they arrive on the scene midway through the first act. "Chiquitita" and "Dancing Queen" are highlights because of this pair. While Butler's "Does Your Mother Know?" is every bit as seductive and fun as it should be, it is Smith's uproarious, over-the-top performance of "Take a Chance on Me" that brings the house down.

Go see MAMMA MIA for the familiar music, energetic dance numbers and a couple standout performances. The show runs through tonight at the Altria Theater. With innuendo and some language, it is not recommended for children.

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