As a disclaimer, I want to make sure it is abundantly clear that I am biased against this production of Mamma Mia! When I saw the 2014 National Broadway Tour of this show, I was instantly captivated by the tales of love and nostalgia set on the small Greek island of Kalokairi, and it was the musical that made me fall in love with musicals. So, this production had to meet high expectations. Although the farewell tour of Mamma Mia! featuring the songs of ABBA was not awful to watch, but it was full of too many un-funny sex jokes, strange choices in characterization, and poor mic/voice balancing to thrill me. Overall, this just felt like watching a pirated version of a movie I loved when I was younger; the quality I remembered was no longer there.
Before seeing two different productions of Mamma Mia!, I had no idea how differently the same lines could be read by two actors. Unfortunately, this production twisted sexual innuendos (which I snickered at in the previous production) into cringe-worthy, exaggerated “jokes” that were too slowly delivered to be funny. Furthermore, the characters themselves seemed far from the original intention of the musical. Donna’s (the mother’s) friends, Rosie and Tanya, seemed to have the most problems. First of all, despite being vastly different characters, the friends had matching almost-bowl-cuts, which were not only hideous but also did not match the characters at all. Tanya, a rich three-time divorcee, was presented as a cute but shallow girl who only tolerated the best things in life, from clothes to sleeping arrangements, so why would she have awful hair? Rosie, a carefree, unmarried woman, did not seem the type to take time out of her morning to blow dry her hair with a round brush. However, it was not just Tanya’s hair that caused problems; her entire disposition clashed with the predetermined facets of her personality. Beginning the show, her character was presented in “traditional” form- with a white pantsuit and haughty expression. However, as the show continued, this initial impression seemed incorrect, even though it was the baseline for her entire personality. Instead of being cunning and strong, it seemed like Tanya happened upon these rich men who adored her. Although this change wasn't necessarily a bad one, it seemed odd to even pay homage to tradition when this production so thoroughly wished to be different.
Speaking of different, although the original National Tour for Mamma Mia! won a Touring Broadway Award for best musical score, this production struggled to make music. Throughout the show, there was never a solid balance between instrumentation and voice. For example, the singing for the chorus of Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! was significantly quieter than its lead-up, but the accompaniment kept the correct dynamic markings throughout the piece. This sort of miscommunication happened multiple times during the show.
Overall, this production of Mamma Mia! gave a lackluster directing/acting/music performance of a musical I once loved.