“Mamma Mia!” at the Orpheum Theatre: Not Worth Your “Money Money Money”

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Mamma Mia! Here I go again- with another harsh review. Mama Mia, what a fun, upbeat, and beloved show. This musical, which opened in 1999, became well known over the years through its use of ABBA songs, its produced movie, and the success throughout the tours. I’ve never seen a stage production of it but I am a sucker for the movie version because of my love of Meryl Streep and Colin Firth. The quirky plot follows soon to be married 20 year old Sophie and her journey to figure out which of three men are her dad. Her single mother and greek taverna owner Donna revisits her past as she sees these men from her summer flings years before.

The beginning of the show was one of the worst openings I’ve seen thus far. First, the sweet and catchy tune “I Have a Dream” begins. It was terrible vocal wise and the heavy breathing was out of control. After the “prologue” I felt like I had revisited seventh grade. The overacting was ridiculous and Sophie and her two friends felt cheesy and annoying. So I suppose you could say I was not impressed at the start.

Typically the one thing I can rely on in all the big touring productions is amazing production elements. This show must have had a low budget because they were not the strong points in the least. It screamed amature hour at your local highschool. The set was dull and simple and never changed throughout the show. The backdrop incorporated this strange seaweed doily thing which was both ugly and confusing. I have never seen a show at the Orpheum have such low quality set changes. While they were done quickly, it dropped the magic of the show when a bunch of people come running out moving chairs and tables all the time. I prefer when the set pieces are on tracks and move by themselves. The lights were nothing special and often fell flat. There were moments when they tried to do washes of bold colors- like the red in “Money Money Money”, but it didn’t seem complete and it didn’t hit the stage right.

The performances I would best describe as stiff. I was most impressed with mother Donna, and best friend Rosie. Other than those two everyone fell flat and weren’t the best vocalists. Sophie and Sky felt like they was there solely as eye candy. I have noticed in the past when musicals are made from pre written songs, such as “We Will Rock You” featuring Queen music- which we saw earlier this year, there is a hard time fully incorporating the musical numbers. While they all made sense plot wise it was the lead-ins to the music that felt very off. The transitions didn’t make sense and the music would come in abruptly. There were backstage vocals in nearly every number, even solo ballads which felt strange and less personal to the audience. The mics were turned way too far down for nearly everyone throughout the whole show. I personally enjoyed the choreography once we got into the show. In the beginning it wasn’t so much choreography as strange gestures, but they made sure to pull out all the stops for the big classic numbers.

There were however a few positive aspects to the show as well. The humor although sometimes crude and immature was fairly funny. The show was entertaining and had heart and soul to it. The audience participation was pretty neat to hear- people seemed to be enjoying this classic.

Overall I was not a fan of this show. I would not recommend it unless perhaps you are a middle aged woman looking to loosen up, buy a drink and see this show with your girlfriends. There were certainly a few of those who were laughing their heads off.  The production, talent, and music missed the mark making this show an unexpected flop.