Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mamma Mia

‘MAMMA MIA’ entertains once again at Palace

The two middle-aged women sitting in front of me at the Palace Theatre’s production of ‘MAMMA MIA,’ could not sit still. As the music rolled off the stage, they were swaying in their first row seats, mouthing the words to the Abba songs, doing hand gestures, and bellowing their pleasure at the conclusion of each song. They did everything that takes place at a rock concert other than flick their cigarette lighter. They, like the rest of the audience, were into the performance!

When a show makes its fourth tour into an area, as is the case with ‘MAMMA MIA,’ there is fear that the production will be tired and the worse for wear. Fear not. As the ladies in front of me showed, this showing is fresh and full of energy.

‘MAMMA MIA’ came to the stage in a different way than most musicals. The usual path is to take a previously written piece of material and add music and lyrics, or create a script and meld in the songs. ‘MAMMA MIA,’ however, is a compilation of the songs of the singing group ABBA with a story written around them. What is amazing is how each song fits into the storyline, as if it were written specifically for the script.

The show has been playing to sold-out audiences on Broadway for over 7 years. The London production has done more than 4,000 performances. It’s been seen by over 40 million people worldwide, grossed over $2 billion dollars at the box office, and has been seen in over 200 major cities. It’s about to open in such locations as Oslo and Mexico City, and will soon tour in Spanish and Dutch versions. Yes, ‘MAMMA MIA’ is a gigantic hit!

The story concerns a single mother (Donna) who owns a small hotel on a Greek island. She has never told her daughter (Sophie), who is about to get married, the identify of her father. The daughter finds her mother’s diary and figures out that there are three possible “dads.” She invites each to the wedding. And, as in all good fairly tales, everyone lives happily ever after, and the audience has a swell time in the process.

It’s basically purposeless to evaluate the cast as opening night in Cleveland found five replacements, including Rachel Tyler (Donna) . It mattered little. This is a professional cast, and all but amateur acting Bradley Whitfield (portraying Sky, Sophie’s finance) were excellent.

I defy anyone to sit through the production and not be carried away by such wonder tunes as “Dancing Queen,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” ‘S.O.S.,” “Take a Chance on Me,” and “The Winner Takes It All.” As my wife says each time we see the show, “How can anyone not like a show that features three middle age women disco singing and dancing?”

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: This excellent production of ‘MAMMA MIA,’ runs only through Sunday, November 15. If you haven’t seen the show before, go, you’ll have a blast. If you have seen it before, go, you’ll have a blast!