“Mamma Mia!”: Do it right

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This show (by instruction of the program supervisor), we were supposed to come to with neutrality, without any preconceived opinions.

Well, too bad about that. I’ve seen Mama Mia before. There’s no possible way I can come to it with a neutral opinion. I know that I will compare everything in this show to everything I can remember from the other. Asking me to be neutral is futile. I’ll just say that I’m the exception. Well I’m at it, I’ll just say that this version of Mama Mia is pretty awful. Mama Mia will be playing at the Orpheum theater from the 24th through the 29th. 

For those who don’t know, Mama Mia is the story of Sophie (played by Chloe Tucker), who has the bright idea of inviting her three possible absentee fathers (Sam, Bill, Harry) to her wedding at the hotel her mother runs on a small Greek island, without her mother knowing. set to the music of ABBA. Say what you will about plot, but it makes more sense than American Idiot. And say what you will about ABBA, but their music is hard to hate. 

Is it pleasant? No. Can you not help but smile? Yes. 

I found that the artistic view must have been all like “let’s make all the numbers more personal. It’ll be better that way. Let’s have less ensemble.” WRONG. They should have not made it personal. Sing louder. Make it so we can understand the lyrics. Add the ensemble to more numbers. Add more energy.

This might be one of my few reviews where I can truly complain about the casting, acting and singing. First of all, many of the leads had weak solos. They could sing fine with a group, but the some of the solos were almost painful. Sophie  looked about 15. She was probably the shortest person in a cast, and that’s okay, but with the way they formed her character, she was about 15 in emotional and physical maturity. Add that she’s acting like a kid for most of the scenes and viola! A fifteen year old who is getting married to a 20 year old. I have no idea why they casted Sam (Christian Whelan). His solos were weak, if not to say, painful. Musicals require singing. Get someone who can sing, and sing well.

The choreography was less than ideal. In “Winner takes it all” it’s bad to the point that Donna (the mother) puts her hand on her abdomen and leans forward, a gesture I associate with vomit. Don’t really know what they were doing there. Also, in towards the end numbers, they had the ensemble dancers in front of the leads. Again, don’t know what they were attempting to do. It’s okay to move the leads toward the front. And it’s okay to use the ensemble. In Mama Mia, the namesake song, almost all the dancing happens in a 6 foot long corridor, and I remember the dancing lacking energy. Please, do it right. 

I have to give the some credit though. They owned the fact that the show is kind of ridiculous. There was a lot of physical humor, which I don’t remember as much in previous renditions. I’m glad they did that, but why couldn’t they own the songs too? 

Is Mama Mia the best show ever? No. But it could be far better than this tour. Did I like the show? No. Not the way they did it. Should you see the show? Yes, someday, with the hope that they’ll do it better next time.

So here’s my final message: Mama Mia isn’t all bad, but in this one, they are doing it all wrong. So until someone does it remotely right, ignore it and walk away.