Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mama Mia! (2012 tour)

MAMMA MIA!, back again and totally entertaining

When a touring production of a hit Broadway show returns to the area for yet another visit, the question asked is, “Is this as good as not only the original production, but of the last edition that hit town?”

Just to make this clear at the start, Yes, the newest incarnation of MAMMA MIA!, now on stage at the Palace Theatre, is a thoroughly entertaining theatrical experience. The quality of the acting is excellent, the show is nicely mounted, and except for an overly loud sound system, which had some squeals and which projected the music so loudly that the woman in front of me took out her hearing aid, things went well. The audience was on its feet for the extended curtain call, dancing, clapping, and singing.

BTW…don’t run for the exits as soon as you think the show is over. It’s not. There is a remix of lots of the songs, some new dance moves, and an interactive love affair between the dynamic cast and the audience.

MAMMA MIA! is a unique script. Most story-line shows have a lyricist, composer and book writer who work together to develop the script. This show didn’t follow that pattern. The songs were all developed before there was any thought of a musical play.

The music and lyrics, by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, with additional songs by Stig Anderson, were all performed by ABBA, the Swedish pop-rock group, in their concerts and albums. Catharine Johnson loosely wove a story around the songs. The result is a delightful, basically well-integrated musical. The songs and spoken lines generally flow together to develop a cute chick-flick story.

It’s an unnamed island in Greece. Sophie, a twenty year-old, is about to get married to Sky. Her single mom, Donna, who owns a small island resort, has never revealed the identity of Sophie’s father. Sophie unearths her mother’s diary from the year before Sophie’s birthday. Romances with three different men are revealed. Any of them could be “daddy.” Sophie wants to be given away by her dad, so, without her mother’s knowledge, she invites all three to the wedding, hoping to find out the sperm donor. Other wedding guests include Tanya and Rosie, Donna’s former 60s girls group members, and Ali and Lisa, Sophie’s buds.

Through humorous twists, pseudo dramatic instances, and some great music, The Winner Takes All. Along the line the audience is rocked with such songs and production numbers as Dancing Queen, Does Your Mother Know, I Have a Dream, Our Last Summer, Super Trouper, and Voulez-Vous, leaving the audience shouting, Thank You for the Music. There is no way you aren’t going to leave the theatre without singing one or more of the score’s great songs on the way to your car.

Director Phyllida Lloyd has added some line and story interpretations that enhance the story, such as having Kaye Tuckerman, who plays Donna, interpret the role with a slightly hard edge, instead of the cutesy interpretation that is so common. It makes Donna into a real person.

Choreographer Anthony VanLaast does a nice job of reinterpreting the dance numbers. Martin Koch’s musical interpretation marred by the overly loud sound system. The songs are well sung, with word meanings being stressed.

The cast is excellent. Cloe Tucker sings well and is adorable as the conflicted Sophie. Happy Mahaney is a dynamic dancer, and well interprets and sings the role of Sky, Sophie’s husband to be. Alison Ewing is delightful as the swinging Tanya. Mary Callanan steals the show as the husband seeking (Take A Chance on Me) Rosie.

Studly Christian Whelan (Sam), Crocodile Dundee-like John-Michael Zuerlein (Bill) and Paul Deboy, as gay Brit, Harry, are excellent as the three candidates for “who’s my dad?” They are especially delightful in the curtain call.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: The newest revival of MAMA MIA! is once again an audience pleasing delight. If you haven’t seen it before, go! If you have, go again! This is an excellent touring company!