Through Sun 3/19
Yes, Mamma Mia! is back in Cleveland. And, as has consistently happened in the past, the audience was on its feet dancing and singing in the rows and aisles during the extended curtain call.
Mamma Mia! is a jukebox musical, meaning that the music for the show was written before the book, and a story line was developed to hook the songs together. Think Jersey Boys, The Who’s Tommy, All Shook Up, Forever Plaid and American Idiot. The music for the show was written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA. The duo was also involved in the development of the book by Catherine Johnson.
The show opened in London, where it is the eighth longest running show in the West End. The Broadway version closed in September 2015 after a 14-year run. At the time it was ranked as the eighth longest-running show in Great White Way history.
The ABBA excitement starts from the first chord of the dynamic overture when the synthesizer-heavy sound permeates the theatre. From there, the beat goes on and on. Even the curtain call is set up to excite and incite. After the traditional bows, the orchestra performs a reprise of the title song, “Dancing Queen” and then “Waterloo” explodes, resulting in the audience being encouraged to clap, dance and sing their way out of the theatre.
The contrived story takes place on the lovely Greek island of Kalokairi. It centers on 20-year old Sophie, who is preparing to wed Sky. She wants her father to walk her down the aisle. The problem? Her single mother, Donna, has never revealed his identity.
Sophie conveniently finds her mother’s diary, which reveals Donna’s relationships with three men, approximately nine months before Sophie’s birth. Of course, the lass invites all three to the wedding. She doesn’t tell Donna, nor do we find out how she located the three who are spread around the world. (Don’t look for flaws of logic in the script, just accept that they are there and go with the flow.) Obviously, the arrival of the three “fathers” the day before the wedding, along with numerous other guests, starts a series of events which result in a “surprise” soap opera inspired ending.
It would be amazing if anyone could sit through the likes of “Dancing Queen,” “Honey, Honey,” “Money, Money, Money,” “Take a Chance on Me,” and “The Name of the Game” without bouncing on the seat, moving your feet, and not wanting to sing along.
The touring production is strong. Though not of the quality of the Broadway or earlier renditions, the technical aspects, appropriately overloud band and performances all make for a fun evening of theatre. Just remember — West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof or Next to Normal,” this isn’t.
CAPSULE JUDGMENT: “Honey, Honey,” “The Name of the Game,” is “The Winner Takes All” when you go to see what may well be the final tour of “Mamma Mia!.” Yeah, be a “Dancing Queen,” “Take A Chance on Me” and be a “Winner [who] Takes It All.”
Tickets for Mamma Mia!, which runs through Sun 3/19, at the Connor Palace, can be ordered by calling 216-241-6000 or by going to playhousesquare.org.
[Written by Roy Berko, member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle]