by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus
Queen Elizabeth Theatre
September 27-October 9

When Mamma Mia! played here two summers ago it broke ticket sale records.  The house was full again when the latest touring company, one of 13 worldwide, re-opened the show at the Queen E.  If you’re a die-hard ABBA fan, you’ll be in disco heaven.  If not, you might find this production a little disappointing.

Mamma Mia! uses 22 ABBA songs as soundtrack for a story that has nothing to do with the Swedish pop supergroup.  On a Greek island Sophie is about to marry Sky.  Desperate to find her father, Sophie has invited three men to the wedding who were lovers of her mother, Donna, back in the wild days of 1979 when Sophie was conceived.  Donna, proud single mother and taverna owner, is conflicted and perplexed, as is Sophie herself and the three “fathers.”

When a song comments on the situation, it’s an ABBA song.  Sky expresses his love for Sophie by singing “Lay All Your Love on Me.”  Donna worries about the economics of running a Greek island taverna in an elaborate choral version of “Money, Money Money.” 

ABBA’s catchy tunes, with their irresistible hooks, are the heart of this colorful, good-natured, energetic show.  But the production doesn’t always showcase the music effectively, as when one of the prospective fathers advises Sophie in a wooden version of “Knowing Me, Knowing You.”  Sometimes the songs are upstaged by the broad acting of secondary characters or unimaginative choreography in big production numbers.  You’ve got to love the costumes though, especially the fashion flashbacks to silver platform boots and skin-tight spandex.

Bekah Nutt as Sophie and Lauren Mufson as Donna deliver solid performances and have strong voices, especially Mufson.  Laura Ware and Lisa Mandel as Donna’s gal pals Rosie and Tanya are audience faves.  Tall, blond, statuesque Mandel, as middle-aged sexpot Tanya, is almost a dead ringer for Kim Cattrall’s Samantha in Sex and the City.

Mamma Mia! doesn’t pretend to be much more than a frothy confection, and it’s mostly lots of fun.  Just don’t go into it with wildly high expectations.

Mamma Mia’s Five Best ABBA Numbers:

“Chiquitita”—One of the best matches of lyrics to situation.  Sung sweetly to Donna by her commiserating friends.

“Dancing Queen”—Donna and friends actually improve on the original, making it sound like the girl-power pop anthem it wants to be.

“The Winner Takes It All”—One of ABBA”s best songs, Edith Piaf with a disco beat, sung powerfully by Donna.

“Take a Chance on Me”—Rosie pursues her man while singing this infectious disco polka in the show’s funniest number.

“Mamma Mia”— A great tune and the title song for good reason. Cleverly introduced when Donna first sees her three ex-lovers, then reprised as the curtain call extravaganza.

Jerry Wasserman

last updated: Thursday, September 29, 2005 8:14 PM
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