Guess I'm the kinda guy who only sees the litter and nobody will miss me when I'm gone. But, (Mamma mia!) Mamma Mia's not my cup of glitter. Those K-Tel hits are fine but they don't turn me on.
Abba's jukebox musical is just one of those shows. Most likely you're either a fanatical devotee or you just don't get It. While I've always been solidly in the second group, I've got to admit that the trio of regional divas anchoring Playhouse on the Square's fun, faintly kitschy production give this sugary money-printing machine real local appeal. How hard could it be to sell tickets to see Kim Sanders, Claire Kohlheim, and Annie Freres do karaoke, and really, with a storyline so barely there it makes porno look way sophisticated, that's pretty much what Mama Mia is.
More to the point, Mamma Mia is a cloying situation comedy set on a Greek island where Sophie, the daughter of an unmarried American ex-pat, has planned a big, messy surprise for her wedding party.
Sophie was born in the swinging, free-loving 1970’s, and her mother Donna, a rock-and-roller turned put-upon tavern-owner, has never been sure who the father was. After reading her mom’s diary, however, the determined young woman hones in on the three most likely candidates: a nerdy architect, an adventurous writer, and a gay banker who used to play in a punk band. Sophie's goal is to solve the mystery quickly and have her real dad give away the bride. So she does what any of us would do. She forges letters from her mother, inviting the three old friends on a holiday they won't soon forget.
Director Jordan Nichols and co-choreographer Travis Bradley have given their show a more vibrant movement profile than I remember from the stale Broadway tours, but Mamma Mia is all about those songs fans know so well, and, like previous productions, this regional premiere has a real "stand and deliver" quality. That's not a knock, because the goods are there and abundant.
Sanders and Kohlheim sparkle as Donna’s oldest (sparkliest) friends and former bandmates —Tania the jet-setting serial bride and Rosie, an earthy cookbook author. Similarly, Greg Krosnes, Jonathan Christian, and Greg Earnest give plenty of support as Sophie's three (potential) dads. But this show belongs to Freres who plays Donna with the quippy sass of a latter day Hepburn and whose full, melted butter voice goes from gutsy to angelic in the span of a keyboard fill. She's a musical theater vet who's done some bar band singing too, and it shows.
I like Abba as much as the next nostalgic Gen X-er. Mamma Mia, not so much. But if it's your confectionary cup of commercial swill (and I'm not judging, really), you will not be disappointed.