There are merits to having a big cast: you have the potential for a strong chorus, a big booming sound, impressive large group choreographic moments, it makes it possible to create a context in which a show will take place. Many shows do this very well. However, Mamma Mia is not one of them.
Mamma Mia employs a large cast of glorified set movers to poorly act out the forever cheesy story of a girl with three possible fathers. It’s a show that pretends to be about female strength and independence but in the end turns out to be all about needing a man after all.
The chorus, while extremely on point, are performers I frankly feel badly for. They are onstage simply to move the nearly broken set from place to place, drown out the leads, and look sort of pretty in their costumes. I praise them for doing the work they need to do, but feel so bad for them. I wish they could be in a show where they are not directed to over-act like they’re in a children’s production where everything is so painfully fake.
One goes to the theatre to experience another place, to see something take place in another world. Mamma Mia, instead, directs you to a place where everything is so obviously not real, where everyone seems like they’re trying so hard to make a fake place. Maybe this works for the demographic, I’m not sure. I’m definitely not in it.
I won’t say all bad things about Mamma Mia. Georgia Kate Haege (Donna) and Chelsea Williams (Sophie) deliver a charming performance as a mother-daughter duo. They seem happy to be onstage, and that radiates off into the audience. Donna’s friends, Rosie and Tanya, played by Carly Sokolove and Gabrielle Mirabella respectively, brought a touch of adult humor to the show. They play a great duo, and I’m sure they hit the nail on the head for the older women in the audience.
Mamma Mia is, overall, an enjoyable experience, if you can overlook the dumbed-down acting, the disappointing performances by some, and the childishly large cast. Tickets are available online at www.hennepintheatretrust.org, in person at the state theater box office, or by calling 1.800.982.2787