Mamma Mia, the Broadway smash that uses seventies pop band Abba’s music to frame and highlight a woman’s relationship with the important people in her life opened on Tuesday night at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. The show has become one of Broadway’s most beloved productions of all time, for its feel good story, great music, and great acting. The latest version to come to Georgia keeps up that tradition!
With a greek island as the backdrop, the story focuses on a middle-aged single mom, Donna, and her relationships with the people in her life as she prepares for her daughter Sophie’s wedding. The story, humor and dramatic tension unfold as the three men who might be Sophie’s father show up for the wedding without Donna’s knowledge at Sophie’s request.
With that as the story’s premise, the genius of the play is how Abba’s various hits are used to complement and accentuate the various storylines in the show. All the Abba hits from the 1970’s are used with particularly creative uses of “Voulez-vous”, “S.O.S.”, “Does Your Mother Know” and “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” while “Waterloo” is used in the sing-along encore. Given the fact that more than 54 million people have seen Mamma Mia worldwide since 1999 it’s an understatement to suggest that the concept has been successful.
Mamma Mia was one of the first “jukebox” musical productions to weave an unrelated story around a particular artists’ music. Subsequent productions have done similar things; “Jersey Boys”, “American Idiot”, and Queen’s “We Will Rock You” but none have had the success that Mamma Mia has had because they’re not as clever and not as good!
With a show as renowned and universally loved as Mamma Mia the responsibility falls to the current cast to maintain that spirit and that feel good sentiment. Thanks to the all-round solid performances from all the principals the Work Light Productions version of this Broadway smash works very well.
Sophie is perfectly played by Chelsea Williams who, through the course of the story, becomes increasingly aware that she and Donna are more alike than they are different. Mark A. Harmon, and Michael Colavolpe play the roles of two of the three prospective fathers, Harry and Bill, with a perfect amount of humor given their characters’ idiosyncrasies while Sam, played by Jeff Drushal, is the perfect serious foil to them.
Donna’s friends, “The Dynamo’s”, played by Gabrielle Mirabella and Sara Smith provide similar light moments (“Chiquitita” and “Money, Money, Money”) to offset some of Donna’s angst. They are also excellent in their interactions with Pepper and Bill.
While the supporting cast are all very good, Georgia Kate Haege as Donna is exceptional. She strikes a perfect balance of indignation, protective love, and carefree fun as she deals with the various people in her life while trying to reconcile all those emotions within herself. Her rendition of “Winner Takes It All”, the emotional highpoint of the play is excellent but her performances of “Slipping Through My Fingers and “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do” are also noteworthy.
The somewhat unpredictable but happy ending are reason enough for everyone in the audience to stand in the aisles and clap and sing-along as the entire cast leads in “Mamma Mia”, “Dancing Queen” and “Waterloo”. It’s a fun show with clever usage of some of Abba’s biggest hits. I’d challenge anyone to leave the theatre not having had a good time.
Thankfully the current cast of Mamma Mia is ensuring that the production remains as fresh and as fun as it always has been! Performances of Mamma Mia will continue at the Fox Theatre through September 28.