Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Review: Mamma Mia

Mamma Mia is now on its second national tour (title the North American Tour). This is one of those musicals that must be commended for its broad reaching appeal. Its roots in pop music give it access to a greater audience than normal and that is an important gateway to get those potential audience members into other and more impactful productions. Many of us began our theatre appreciation with shows such as Cats, The Lion King, and the like. The shows also share in mass financial success.

Mamma Mia is the ultimate pop-musical. The score is made of pre-existing songs by the rock group ABBA (their second musical) laced together with a nominal plot. A young bride-to-be finds her mother's diary which depicts three romances at the time of her birth. Since her mother has never told her who her father is, the bride invites all three men to the wedding in hopes that one will reveal himself as the father. The plot doesn't go much farther than that and the play itself and resembles a rock concert that has been combined with the dream ballet from Oklahoma! which has been mixed in with a bachelorette party.

The play is able to make the whole production sound like an ABBA album through liberal use of reverb from the sound design and the random appearance of backing singers. All an all the vocal performances are very impressive and send electric excitement through the audience of mostly middle-aged women. The cast has to be commended on excellent execution of the choreography that left me wanting more and bigger dance numbers.

While the audience was very much engaged in the production, I felt that the play was rather self-contained. Nothing seemed to be performed for the audience's benefit. The production (through no fault of the actors) felt like it had been mass produced. Everything was very well and professionally executed, but there didn't seem to be anything "real." Yes, it is more real than the recent movie version and I am thankful that people had come out to the theatre so see the live performance. I just wish they had offered more to those who did attend.

Happy Birthday: Euripides (480 B.C. - 406 B.C.)

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