After years of seeing that familiar image on the MAMMA MIA! poster (she looks an awful lot like Julianna Margulies to me), the tour of the popular musical is coming to an end. So if you’ve never seen it or haven’t seen it in a while, this is it, people! Its run in Denver ends April 16 at the Buell Theatre.
I’ve been fortunate enough to see the show three times and it never gets old. Although the costumes are exactly the same each time, the actors are different and their performances and nuances are individual so it’s fresh. Besides, who can resist the music of ABBA, so brilliantly woven into a storyline. After the show last night, my friend and I discussed how, as a body of work, we can’t think of any other group or solo artist who created such definite, specific stories into their songs. It’s like they weren’t really trying to go for mass appeal of something everyone could relate to as much as they were getting their own trials and tribulations off their chests and into words. They just happened to be catchy or pretty. I mean, how many bands wrote about being sad watching their little daughter go off to school, schoolbook in hand while they cleared dishes from the kitchen table? Or about calling their lover last night from Glasgow? Specific stuff!
Using only two chunks of set that rotate around, Mama Mia cleverly creates all the world we need to see in the Greek island taverna owned by Donna Sheridan and her daughter, Sophie, who is about to get married. With some table and chair props and a few costume changes, everything gets played out simply. That makes sense really, given that the complicated storyline and the busy songs are meant to be the focus.
At opening night, there were some problems with sound which I hope get fixed. It was like the first couple of notes of every line weren’t really amplified. And often, the background singing drowned out the main singer. Thankfully, none of that took away from the beautiful voices of the cast, especially the three “older” women, Donna, Tanya and Rosie, played respectively by Betsy Padamonsky, Cashelle Butler and Sarah Smith (as opposed to Sophie and her two pals, the “younger” trio). Butler is a Colorado native who went to UNC, Cherry Creek High School and Cherokee Trail High School. Maybe it was just the audience’s knowledge that she was a home girl, but they/we seemed to especially enjoy her performance.
I couldn’t help but compare the Broadway show to the Meryl Streep movie, MAMMA MIA!, which I love. It benefits from sweeping views of Greece that help a lot when it’s song after song and not a lot of movement. In the stage version, some of the ballads, which are pretty inactive, seem to stagnate a little. It’s also pretty humorous at times when, in one scene, there are three songs. Poor actors, they just get a few words spoken and it’s time to belt out another number! Exhausting!
Go see MAMMA MIA! for a trip through a convoluted storyline, fun characters, creative music and lots of spandex and platform shoes.
Take a look at the fun, although this is not the touring company you’ll see in Denver.