Everyone has that song from their childhood that they suddenly hear again for the first time in years and nostalgia hits. It comes on the radio and suddenly every single word comes back as if it was only yesterday that it was you were singing along to it at the top of your lungs. For me, Mamma Mia! was that hint of nostalgia. The entirety of the show was a flashback to my childhood, with each song bringing back memories of scream-singing in my living room. Sadly to say, this production of Mamma Mia!, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, was all in all a disappointment in comparison to that memory. That's not to say it didn't have its moments, but numerous small shortcomings added up to a larger issue with the show itself.
The acting in the production ranged from accolade worthy performances to overacting that is reminiscent of high school productions. Lizzie Markson had a key role as Sophie Sheridan, and she focused to hard on the childish elements. In certain songs, her strong voice would shine out; but for the most part the whining child overwhelmed the character. I half expected her to stomp her foot when she didn't get her way. The focus on being young enough to marry added a nasal quality to her voice and made her hard to relate to.
Other performances helped detract from the overacting of some of the actors. Tanya and Rosie (played by Cashelle Butler and Sarah Smith) were a ray of sunshine. Their characters played well off of each other, the two large personalities balancing and bouncing off of each other perfectly. Overall, the show had strong vocals with weak acting, which works well for a show that is so focused on the famous songs.
The set design was well equipped for the show. It flowed flawlessly to become different scenes around the island. A major plus for the show was the choreography. Although relatively basic, choreographer Anthony Van Laast pushes for sharp movements that accent the beat and rhythm in each song. The band itself occasionally overpowered the vocals, and vice versa, but the audio issues are probably due to the to first night in a new venue. Microphone and balance problems lead to some vocalists seeming stronger than others, although chances are their mics were just fading out.
As the first song of the overture began to play, I became that little girl dancing around her living room. I was a dancing queen, a Super Trouper, and was dying for my own love to lay all his love on me. And then it was as if reality had struck. Or instead of reality, it was as though i had been shoved into a 1970s sitcom where any girl becomes a giggling mess with a high pitched voice and no other form of personality. The acting was barely saved by the spurts of humor and smoothness of the raunchier characters. Tanya not knowing how to properly “blow” an air mattress made me laugh so hard my stomach hurt. So, essentially, the show has its moments, and is a fun, happy-go-lucky show that the Orpheum has not seen yet this season. It runs from February 7-12 and is filled to the brim with fun, colorful dance numbers that sparkle and shine more than the characters.