It’s Mamma Mia!, what are you expecting?
With its slight storyline mostly existing as a reason to belt out ABBA numbers with regularity, Mamma Mia! (don’t forget the exclamation point) is a show all about how well those ABBA numbers are belted out. Fortunately, the current production at the Marriott Lincolnshire has seen fit to stock itself with terrific singers and dancers in key roles assuring that ABBA fans and musical theatre fans will all find something to enjoy.
You can tell director Rachel Rockwell’s affinity for this music and the show by all the energy put in to every aspect of this production. Everybody tackles their part with a sense of fun and goodwill, that the show really needs if you’re going to pull it off. While you think that staging it in the round might be a challenge, it works astonishingly well, with the entire theatre getting used and water on the perimeter of the stage to create the beachy feel of the Greek Taverna with actual wading at certain parts of the story.
They’ve cast the terrific Danni Smith as Donna Sheridan, whose deep dark secret of which of three men (clutch pearls!) is the father of her daughter Sophie (Tiffany Tatreau) provides the mystery around which the plot revolves. Danni just slayed some music penned by ABBA’s principal songwriters Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson earlier this year when she appeared as Florence in Porchlight Music Theatre’s shamefully-short three night staging of the original European version of their musical CHESS. So their lighter pop melodies are in great hands here. You can especially hear how great she is when she does “The Winner Takes It All.” And while she’s way too young to be Sophie’s mother, she has the gravitas to pull off this mature role.
Basically, the older characters are the ones to watch in this version. Meghan Murphy as Donna’s friend Tanya pretty much stole the whole show with “Does Your Mother Know” with the adorable Lieam Quealy as Pepper. It’s also one of the braver musical choices in the entire show, because on the original ABBA track, the boys sing “Does Your Mother Know”. It’s about as straight up rock as ABBA ever got. She’s also a great dancer.
See also Cassie Slater as Rosie. She had everyone laughing during her “Take a Chance On Me” with Derek Hasenstab as Bill Austin.
The male trio of potential Dads is also solid, but whether it’s the fact that they just get the thankless task of playing these parts in the show that’s all about ABBA music, or just the fact that the female trio is so strong, they made less of an impression. Karl Sean Hamilton was the standout here as Harry Bright, being charming as can be. Derek Hasenstab was a funny Bill Austin and Peter Saide as Sam Carmichael did a creditable job.
The younger part of the cast, well, though they are the catalyst for the show, it’s not really about them seeing it’s a vehicle for ABBA disco-era nostalgia. They were ok. It would have been better if they were able to stand up better against the older female trio.
The dancing, without exception, was superb. It added a ton of fun to this production.
As usual, the Marriott’s orchestra led by Patti Garwood was terrific. They didn’t overpower the singers and didn’t make the songs sound cheesy, which is a danger with this material.
If you like these songs and you’d like to see people sing them well live, there’s no reason not to see this version of Mamma Mia! It’s playing now through April 16th.
Tickets are available from the Marriott Website.
Photos provided by the production.