If musicals could sing, the performance of Mamma Mia! at the Orpheum Theatre on February 18th, would be belting, “Can’t you hear me S. O. S.”
Set on a Greek island, Mamma Mia! tells the story of Sophie, a bride-to-be with one wish: to have her absent father walk her down the aisle. After reading passages about three old lovers in her mom’s diary, Sophie sends each a wedding invitation in hopes of learning which is her dad. The arrival of the men from her past is surprising to Donna, Sophie’s fiercely independent mother, who prides herself on getting through life without a man, and highly amusing to Donna’s two best gal pals.
The music of ABBA brings anyone to hum along or dance in their seat, yet the acting of most, if not all the actors in this showing of Mamma Mia!, was enough to keep me in my seat. Cringing.
Chelsea Williams, performing as Sophie, was a silly girl; it was hardly believable that this 20 year old was soon to be married as she giggled over the thoughts of “dot, dot, dot” with her childish friends. Though her singing was enthusiastic and over-the-top, it did no justice to previous performers in her shoes. Georgia Kate Haege as Donna, was a step up from Chelsea, yet her lack of energy was enough to make me ‘have a dream” during her performance.
Mamma Mia! Was rescued by the work of the ensemble. The crazy, Greek island kids were lively in the full cast musical numbers such as “Voulez-Vous” and “Does Your Mother Know”.
For this touring Broadway production, I think they found it hard to fit in 22 hit ABBA songs within a musical production along with dialogue. Add in emotion, humor, and dancing and it is an even harder task. At this performance I found myself applauding one musical number, watching a few stilted phrases of dialogue and the noticing the band cue in yet another song. Yes, musicals are meant to be full of singing, but not constant singing with overacted dialogue and crude humor.
Lastly, Expecting a Broadway set, I was disappointed when the soul location was a simple break apart Greek villa. This does stay true to the back story, Donna constantly complains of her broken down taverna, But by the second act I was hoping for a new view, the setting is on a Greek island after all.
Did I enjoy myself at Mamma Mia!? Yes. Why? Because the music of ABBA is seen in a fresh, vital and immediate way, different each time. And even I can’t refuse to dancing and singing along to “Dancing Queen”!