Though the crowd felt exuberant as the cast of Mama Mia sang the lines “only seventeen,” I only had one thought in my mind. This could have been done by seventeen year olds. Mama Mia is a 1999 jukebox musical containing hip ABBA tunes, featuring the story of a young woman named Sophie (Lizzie Markson), raised by a single mother, who is planning to get married. On the eve of her wedding, in attempt to find her father, Sophie invites three old flames of her mother. While the fun ballads kept the audience happy, and the ensemble had fluid movement and amazing humor, the show unfortunately felt lackluster and disappointing.
It was quite disheartening when the brief moments of quirky plot and humor were the most entertaining. Betsy Padamonsky, who plays Sophie’s mother Donna, has hearting warming scenes with her daughter, but neither make a vocal impact. While, Sophie’s love interest Sky played by Dustin Harris Smith and Markson have little chemistry, it becomes relatively unimportant as they are relatively not on stage together. The only chemistry in the show seemed to be between Donna’s friends Tanya (Cashelle Butler) and Rosie (Sarah Smith), who both provide excellent comic relief, and must defiantly enhance the actions of the other actors. The most notable performances came from the ensemble of Sky’s male friends who provided endless amounts of physical comedy. Overall the entire ensemble cohesively moved together and added buckets of energy to the production. Another noticeable performance come from the band, for the excellent and energetic music.
In addition to the weak performances, Mama Mia also failed to impress technically. While simple sets can make impacts, the production’s set felt aimless. The bland, white walls did little to portray the alleged beautiful Greek island many characters spend the play raving about. Even more displeasing the constant use of shaky spotlights became a large distraction in the show’s attempt at more meaningful moments. Ron Glow’s costuming, which assigned each scene or character with conforming colors, again felt unimpressive as the acts performed eccentric numbers. Overall the show technically flat, and did not reflect the bright 70s tone.
Despite the many negative factors of the production, it was not miserable to watch. It was mostly enjoyable, and the show’s energy was greatly improved by the atmosphere in the audience. It only seemed to pale in comparison to the performance and technical level of other professional theater. Mama Mia is light and great for a night at the theater, but crucially fails while being viewed critically.