I don’t want to write this review. I have a lot of history with Mama Mia. I’ve seen the musical thrice and the movie twice- which is a lot of commitment when it comes to me and musicals. I can sing a vast majority of the numbers; not well, and not often, but I can and do. The only musical I’ll defend more is the Music Man, for reasons inveterate in my nature. At heart, I believe Mama Mia to be a good show. It’s fun, perky, catchy and simple enough to have broad enough appeal. This rendition of Mama Mia is hard to review, for the precise reason that part of me wants the magic to be alive, and the other part of me is disappointed because the magic is gone. You can see Mama Mia at the Orpheum Theater, playing until the 23rd of this month. A wedding on a Greek Island sounds like a veritable paradise compared to the weather that doesn’t seem to stop happening here in Minneapolis.
Mama Mia is the story of a young bride-to-be who has the bright idea of inviting her three potential fathers to her wedding, without her mother’s knowledge. Her mother, heartbroken from betrayal, proud of the life she made for her and her daughter running a run-down resort and wary of matrimony then has to deal with her daughter, distraught from daddy issues and her three former lovers/potential fathers as the wedding looms on the small Greek Island. With the music of ABBA, a greenhouse of sexual tension and comic stylings of bored teenagers, Mama Mia in the past has proven to be an exception to a universal critic of musical theatre.
This rendition of Mama Mia runs in the middle of the pack of contenders that dazzled their war across my field of review. There is far more dialogue in this show compared to previous versions and this traveling broadway season. It almost passed the threshold of too much, in an attempt to establish character, backstory or context. Mama Mia is not the show I was expecting to be wordy this season, but I guess I’m still capable of surprise.
Unfortunate was the balance of sound on the night that I saw it. For some reason or another, the vocals could hardly make it to my ears. I hope whatever issues they were having have been resolved, because Mama Mia relies on the music for the necessary energy to somehow catch the loyalty of people like me. It will not be held up by the plot or characters: if the audience does not feel that they can dance, they can jive; they’re having the time of their lives, your rendition of Mama Mia will go down in history as yet another to remind me that I’m not the Dancing Queen.
In my opinion, Mama Mia is an excellent show to go see, but the question always is this rendition worth it? A first impression ranging from sour to unimpressed will deprive you of a future of spontaneous sing alongs, unconditional reverence and desperate nostalgia. That’s not something I’d deny to anyone, but it’s also not something I’d try to bequeath to someone carelessly. The magic is gone for me, but it may still have a chance to exist in you.
I’d say cautiously that this show is one worth seeing, compared to the miserable example last time Mama Mia came to town. There’s no telling what could happen next time, so for now all you risk is lackluster ambivalence or a life of wondering… How can I resist ya?