By Jacob Froelich
What more could possibly be said about one of the world’s most popular and successful Broadway shows? MAMMA MIA! is one of only five shows to have run for more than 10 years on Broadway and has been viewed by over 60 million people worldwide. It was made into a blockbuster of a movie starring Meryl Streep, among others, which grossed over 609 million at the box office. Of course, all of this is not to mention that the musical, written by Catherine Johnson, is a story woven together by selected works of ABBA, one of the most successful musical groups in the history of the world, with record sales well into the hundreds of millions. They’ve got a “Greatest Hits” album, if you haven’t heard of them, I’m surprised you’re reading this.
ABBA are a Swedish pop group formed in Stockholm in 1968 by Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. ABBA rose to popularity when they won the Eurovision Song Contest 1974, with what would become a greatest hit, “Waterloo.” Subsequent albums fall into the pop, euro pop, disco and pop rock genres. Most of their songs revolve around the falling in and out of love, something the group could sing all too personally about. With all of that said, it makes for quite the musical.
All the action centers around the wedding of bride to be Sophie Sheridan, as played by Lizzie Markson, and mother of the bride Donna Sheridan as played by Betsy Padamonsky. Shenanigans ensue almost immediately as each of the leading ladies’ best friends show up to the Greek getaway to help with the wedding. Things get even more interesting when Sophie reveals to her friends that she has invited three different men to her wedding whom she believes to be her father, of which her mother has never spoken. Naturally all three of them show up and MAMMA MIA! Much to Sophie’s dismay, it isn’t immediately obvious who exactly her father might be.
Hilarity continues as Donna’s best friends Tanya and Rosie (Cashelle Butler, Sarah Smith) attempt to revive Donna’s spirits with a charming rendition of “Chiquitta” and the hits don’t stop rolling. While Donna is struck with the inner turmoil of her past decisions, the other two don’t waste a minute reliving days gone by and it’s very clear the audience shares in reliving moments of their own past loves and losses. Act I ends in a rousing and suspenseful “Voulez Vouz” and it’s anyone’s guess who will walk Sophie down the aisle.
Of course, it should come as no surprise that everything comes to a resolution in Act II, though I cannot say everything is ever fully revealed. I won’t ruin the surprise ending if you, like me, forgot how the movie ends. The biggest laugh is stored for moments before the wedding when Sarah Smith as Rosie, loses her cool, carefree personality with “Take a Chance on Me.” The production concludes with a wedding and tribute mini concert to ABBA during the extended curtain call.
I personally wasn’t sure what to expect going into a musical based on one of my favorite musical groups of all time. I was especially concerned after the movie left a little to be desired in term of performativity and sheer singing ability. Thankfully, the Broadway production does not disappoint. It does take a minute for the audience to suspend their disbelief that the songs being sung can actually apply to the situation at hand, however the cast and especially Donna (Betsy Padamonsky) truly nail the iconic ABBA sound of 70’s pop, lightly frosted low notes in “Super Trouper” and the delightful synthesizer imitations in “Dancing Queen.” If you’re out for a serious night of theater, I’d recommend another show, but if you’re seriously in need of a laugh (and let’s face it, who isn’t these days?) MAMMA MIA! provides a solid three hours of escapism and will likely trigger a few happy memories of simpler times.
The original production of MAMMA MIA! was produced by Judy Craymer, Richard East and Björn Ulvaeus for Littlestar in association with Universal, the creative team responsible for bringing MAMMA MIA! to theatrical life includes some of the most gifted and celebrated talents of musical theatre and opera. With music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, MAMMA MIA! is written by Catherine Johnson and directed by Phyllida Lloyd. MAMMA MIA! has choreography by Anthony Van Laast, production design by Mark Thompson, lighting design by Howard Harrison, sound design by Andrew Bruce and Bobby Aitken, and musical supervision, additional material and arrangements by Martin Koch.
Performance dates are Tuesday, Feb. 7 through Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017 at the Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis. Performance times are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m.
Ticket prices start at $39.00. All pricing includes a Building Restoration Fee of $4.00.
Tickets for the general public go on sale on Friday, Nov. 18 at 10 a.m. and can be purchased at the State Theatre Box Office (805 Hennepin Ave. Minneapolis), by calling (800) 982-2787 or by clicking to HennepinTheatreTrust.org. For information and reservations for groups of 10 or more, call (612) 373-5665 or email MinneapolisGroups@broadwayacrossamerica.com.