Mamma Mia! is passing through Minneapolis, at the Orpheum Theater, one last time on its national farewell tour. The show, a jukebox musical featuring the tunes of 70s Swedish pop group ABBA, is well known at this point thanks to its long Broadway run and 2008 movie. The plot revolves around a single mother, Donna, who runs a taverna on a small greek island, and her daughter, Sophie, who is getting married. Sophie doesn't want to get married without knowing who her father is, so she reads her mom's diary, comes up with three possibilities and invites them all to the wedding. Throw in some ABBA music and you've got the recipe for a upbeat and funny night at the theater.
The design of the show, by Mark Thompson (Production Design) and Howard Harrison (Lighting Design) clearly places you on a Greek Island. Waves shimmer on the curtains and in the background, the stage is bare except for 2 set pieces that together create the white exterior and interior of a Greek Taverna. Although quite large they are rotated and moved around with ease during the show for smooth transitions.
For a show based on a mother/daughter relationship it was not surprising to see the audience full of mothers and daughters. Unfortunately the mother/daughter pair and the center of the show was also the weakest part of this production. I struggled to find any sort of chemistry between Betsy Padamonsky (Donna) and Lizzie Markson (Sophie). The script is not the strongest part of this show and Padamonsky's forced performance made this very evident.
Fortunately Donna's best friends, who have also arrived on the island for Sophie's wedding, gave stellar performances. Cashelle Bulter as Tanya and Sarah Smith as Rosie lifted every scene that they were in. Both had a chance to shine in their own hilarious numbers. Bulter in "Does Your Mother Know", and Smith in "Take a Chance on Me", which had the audience clapping to the beat before the number even started.
The end of the show (after the bows) is when the fun really starts, and fully gets into the 1970s pop group vibe, as characters don lavish costumes and sing more ABBA favorites. It felt more like a celebratory concert than extended bows.
Mamma Mia! is a fun show, but if you have seen it before I would give this production a pass. It is currently playing at the Orpheum theater through February 12th.
*Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia
*Thank you to Hennepin Theatre Trust for inviting me to this performance.