As the house lights dimmed, a commanding voice came over the crowd announcing cast changes, condemning photography, cell phones and food and drink, and warning, “platform boots and white spandex are featured in this production.” With that, the orchestra began to boom, the crowd erupted and this critic realized that this was not going to be your usual musical.
Mamma Mia! is a glittering blend of comedy and music that might just be the most crowd-pleasing musical ever. The show proved to be satisfying to a diverse audience, ranging from children to grandparents. Never have I seen a more vocally enthusiastic multitude of theatergoers. There was whistling, “woo-hooing,” and “ow-owing” from before the curtain rose to the final moments of the encore numbers.
For those who don’t know the plot, the story is set on a small island in Greece. Donna Sheridan is the owner of a crumbling taverna and the single mother of 20-year-old Sophie who is about to be married. While Donna attempts to juggle her guests, the wedding preparations and the fear of losing her daughter, Sophie invites three old flames from her mother’s past to the wedding in hopes of finding her father. The fun-loving sounds of Abba and hysterical comedy of this light-hearted tale, as directed by Phyllida Lloyd, will surely make you tap your toes.
The true charm of the acting comes from the secondary characters. Annie Edgerton and Kittra Wynn Coomer, playing Donna’s best gal pals Tanya and Rosie, had the audience rolling forward, grabbing their stomachs and cackling out loud throughout the performance. Something also has to be said for Adam Michael Kaokept and Anthony Cefala, the actors who play Sky’s friends, Pepper and Eddie. The characters have just a handful of lines, but even when they are not speaking they deliver laughs. During “Lay All Your Love On Me,” Kaokept, Cefala and the ensemble prance out in purple wet suits, snorkels and flippers for an impressive tap-type number. It is this kind of physical comedy that both pleases the audience and keeps them wanting more.
The entire musical is presented on two rotating architectural elements made to look like a Greek villa. While it isn’t the most realistic or stunning set design, it gets the job done. The costuming is less than breathtaking as well. However, Howard Harrison’s lighting design, a facet of production that so often goes unnoticed, is able to alter the mood and tone of the scenes and musical numbers, diminishing the restrictions of the stage.
These average aesthetics merely served as a canvas for the show’s true purpose – the music. The blend of catchy, pop-music tunes and tremendous theater scores wows the audience who cannot help by clap along. At times the performance feels as much like a concert as it does a musical. This is especially true during the encores when the stage lights shine out into the audience who is on its feet singing along.
The summer movie of the same title presents picturesque landscapes, authentic sets and charming costumes, which the musical lacks. However, if you like the movie it would be a shame to miss the enchanting music and exciting comedy that the live performance brings to the stage. It will have you saying, “Thank You For The Music,” wishing you were the “Dancing Queen,” and singing “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do,” when people ask you if you like it.
Mamma Mia! runs through Sept. 14. Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday at Bass Performance Hall in downtown Fort Worth.