With contagious music from ABBA and an enjoyable story, it’s no wonder hit musical Mamma Mia! is making its 8th appearance in Minneapolis. Mamma Mia!, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, follows the story of Sophie Sheridan and her journey to discover which of three men is her father, after she invites all of them to her wedding in Greece-unbeknownst to her mother. The musical weaves some of ABBA’s most famous songs into the story. Mamma Mia! is no doubt entertaining, but may be running its course at this point. The novelty the show once had is now gone, and it’s clear that the show has passed it’s prime. The Farewell Tour lacks finesse and brought to light that it’s time to retire the polyester neon jumpsuits after all.
One of the biggest unwritten rules in theatre is to not overact. This leads to performances falling flat and not feeling genuine. Many of the supporting actors suffered from overacted performances, but Lizzie Markson, who played Sophie, unfortunately delivered one of the most over-exaggerated performances. Markson has a beautiful voice and a lot of potential, but ultimately just seemed like she was trying too hard. There were two flawless performances, though. Cashelle Butler and Sarah Smith, who respectively portrayed Tanya and Rosie, were the standout performers of the show. Both strong actors and vocalists, scenes that involved Butler and Smith were by far the best, particularly “Dancing Queen”, which the audience praised with rapturous applause. Their chemistry and comedic timing was a highlight of the show.
Every production has audio issues, but Mamma Mia! had an overabundance of them. Several times throughout the show, actors microphones would either cut out or wouldn’t be on when they began to speak. The volume mix between the orchestra and the mics was also off, as the sound wasn’t balanced between the two. The orchestra either overpowered the actors or the actors mics were too loud. For instance, during “Knowing Me, Knowing You” the orchestra seemed nearly nonexistent, while the actor's mic was placed at a high volume. The sound imbalance was obvious and often distracted from the production. While it was the first night of the show in a new venue, there were simply just too many sound and audio issues for a production of this level.
The set, however, is something that works to the shows advantage. Designed by Mark Thompson, the set involves two Greek cottages that remain on stage throughout the show and switch positions to indicate different locations on the island. This made the scene changes quick and seamless, which allowed the story to move forward in a natural way. The choreography (or perhaps, Flipperography) in Lay All Your Love On Me was also a very nice element of the show. The male ensemble delivered an amusing and in sync performance.
Mamma Mia! is undoubtedly fun and amusing, but the same amount of excitement and enjoyment could come from just staying in and putting ABBA’s greatest hits on. This production is by no means bad-it’s just not the best. Because of most of the performances and the sound issues, the show overall didn’t hit its mark. However, if technical issues and over exaggerated performances can be overlooked, then Mamma Mia! is sure to put a smile on the face of every dancing queen one last time.