Wednesday, February 7, 2024

"Mamma Mia" on tour at the Orpheum Theatre

The smash hit 2001 Broadway musical Mamma Mia!, which opened in 2001 and went on to become the 9th longest running musical in Broadway history, has come back to Minneapolis for one week only! When I first saw it on Hennepin Theatre Trust's 2023-2024 season (note: the new season will be announced this Thursday!), I thought - really, Mamma Mia! again? Why?! But then I realized I hadn't seen the Broadway/touring version since 2010 (although I did see three gorgeous local productions in the last few years, at the Ordway, Chanhassen, and Zephyr in Stillwater outdoors), so I thought I'd check it out. And I had an absolute blast at the show. Yes, it's a jukebox musical with a silly plot made up in which to shove ABBA songs, but the result is so joyously infectious, it's impossible to resist. So if you're thinking, "why should I see Mamma Mia! again," keep reading and I'll give you ten reasons. But hurry, Donna and Sophie and her three dads leave town on Sunday! (Click here for the official ticket site.)

Ten reasons to see Mamma Mia! again (or for the first time):
  1. The endlessly singable songs from the "Swedish pop supergroup" ABBA (but don't actually sing during the show). Whether or not you grew up with these songs, every one is a fun and poppy masterpiece that tells a story in itself, and when the over 20 songs are compiled, they tell a fairly convincing and endearing story of a daughter trying to find her fathers, and herself.
  2. This terrific cast, chock full of powerhouse singers who are singing their faces off. I thought that Christine Sherrill as Donna seemed familiar, and that's because she also played this role in the Ordway's 2018 production, among others. It's obvious she has a lot of experience with this role, because she's so comfortable in it, so in the character, and belting these songs with real emotion and making them her own. Alisa Melendez is a delight as Sophie, fresh-faced and earnest with a lovely voice. Jalynn Steele and Carly Sakolove are a hoot as Donna's pals, and potential dads Rob Marnell, Jim Newman, and Victor Wallace are charmers one and all.
  3. A super talented ensemble cast, who all know that they're in Mamma Mia! They don't take themselves or the show too seriously, but they're seriously good dancers, singers, and performers, putting tons of energy into every moment as they appear to be having the time of their lives.
  4. Boys in wetsuits dancing in flippers. Where else do you get to see that?!
  5. Fast, fun, fabulous dancing (choreographed by Anthony Van Laast) that makes you want to jump up and join them. I wish they'd put out a dance workout video.
  6. The charmingly simple set. So many Broadway shows these days rely on huge fancy sets, technical elements, and video projections, that it's refreshing to see the simplicity that really lets the music and story be the focus. The only major set pieces are two white-washed buildings of the Greek taverna, rotated and moved around to create slightly different spaces inside and outside. The backdrop of blue representing the ocean and warm lighting are all that's needed (production design by Mark Thompson, lighting design by Howard Harrison).
  7. A central love story that's one of female friendship and the mother/daughter relationship. Sure there are romances, but it's these women supporting each other that form the heart of the show.
  8. Leave this weird not-really-winter-but-also-not-really-spring weather we're having and immerse yourself in the pretend sun-kissed atmosphere of a Greek island. It's almost like a vacation!
  9. Forget about politics and war and other harsh realities of life for two and a half hours, and enjoy the bliss of a light, fun, fabulous musical!
  10. The post-curtain call celebration, like the best ABBA tribute concert you could ever see. Singing, and dancing, is not only allowed but encouraged at this point.
the gorgeous and talented cast of Mamma Mia! (photo by Joan Marcus)