BWW Review: MAMMA MIA! at Neptune Theatre
The final production of Neptune Theatre's 55th season is the worldwide musical (and feature film) phenomenon; MAMMA MIA!. Set on a remote Greek island during the summer of 2008, MAMMA MIA! tells the story of Sophie, a spirited bride-to-be who invites three of her mother's old flames to her wedding in the aim of finding her father much to the dismay of Donna, her fiercely independent mother.
What pulls them all together is celebrating the love that was shared, both past and present, on one of the most beautiful islands in Greece. The show is categorized as a jukebox musical; a musical where every song has already been established in mainstream culture. MAMMA MIA! features hit songs from the Swedish pop group ABBA.The company consists of players mostly from Toronto and the Maritimes. Julie Martell leads the marvelous cast as Donna Sheridan, a working class mother who unexpectedly crosses paths with three men from her past while in the midst of readying her daughter for a not-so wanted wedding. Martell embodies the youthful side of Donna, celebrating her glory days of being a diva and the related antics while balancing her role as a mother to a daughter that doesn't fall far from the tree. She welcomes us on her island and takes us under her wing for the emotional rollercoaster as she takes the unwanted trip to the past through "The Winner Takes It All". Cynthia Smithers is a force not to be reckoned with as the confident, youthful bride to be, Sophie. Smithers has a beaming presence and has surprises up her sleeve in proving that Sophie is not necessarily a naive character. She is a beaming beauty the entire show. The one concern I have for the show is the way in which the emotions unfold. The beginning of Act 1 seemed a little patchy; we are just being introduced to the characters when the company breaks into "Money Money Money", and we don't feel the emotion of the show's "I want" song. The choreography seems forced in the beginning rather than coming from a place of desire where the characters dream of being members of the upper class. This is a show that requires typical Broadway style choreo, though as a former dancer I enjoy performances that seem organic and come from a certain place. Donna doesn't appear surprised when she reunites with her three former flames, though it definitely shows during her songs; especially "The Winner Takes It All". Watching the beginning of the show I felt as though I was a tourist that was slightly lost and looking for the heart of the show. But have no fear, I'm about to describe where I found the "heart of the sea" that led to a fantastic journey. What truly ties the show together are the three potential fathers; Jay Davis, Clint Butler and Tim Funnell as Sam, Bill and Harry, respectively. Never have I seen three actors be completely different from one another yet they each command the stage. As soon as they walked on stage, I heard the audience roar with laughter. Everything from their individual styles to their mannerisms and comradery made the perfect recipe for nearly ruining a wedding. They each brought something extraordinary with their presence in every scene, especially when they were together.
MAMMA MIA! is the perfect summer fling for Halifax. Filled with familiar tunes, a loveable cast and glorious Greek scenery, it whisks you away on a trip down the 'isle' you'll never forget. Like a fling, it's not here for long - even though it has been extended twice, summer has an ending! What makes this a great production for Neptune Theatre is that ABBA is well-known worldwide; you can't help but sing the ABBA catalogue as you leave the theatre. As well, the popularity of the 2008 film helped Nova Scotians fall in love with musical theatre, regardless of whether or not it was their first time being exposed to this art.
MAMMA MIA! is on now until Sunday July 15th at Neptune Theatre's Foundation Hall stage. For ticket information, please visit neptunetheatre.com or call 902-429-7070. Tickets have been selling out quickly - get them while you can!
Photo Credit: Stoo Metz