Musicals are often a great source of lighthearted entertainment. Audiences flock to the theater to forget the real world for two hours and enjoy beautiful music. Mamma Mia! is the perfect musical for an audience looking for an upbeat and fun show. It follows the tale of Sophie Sheridan as she secretly attempts to find which of 3 men is her father at her wedding in Greece. Mamma Mia! features some of ABBA’s most popular hits, making this highly entertaining show a hit. The show is a fun one to see, but there are many elements that go into producing a wonderful show and this performance seemed to miss the mark in several different categories.
One make-or-break element of a show is, of course, the acting. It is important to reach the energy needed for a character, but far too often, actors take this direction too far and their performances are overacted. This, sadly, was the case for Lizzie Markson, who played Sophie Sheridan, and many of the other actors. Their performances were entertaining, but far too dramatic and the “magic” of imagining that they weren’t actors was vanished. Sheridan has a beautiful voice, but the over dramatization happened far too often for her to have a believable performance. Though there were many overacted performances, Cashelle Butler and Sarah Smith, who played Tanya and Rosie, delivered the best performances of the evening. Both Butler and Smith are strong actors and vocalists and anytime they were on stage they had the audience boisterously laughing. Their standout performances made “Dancing Queen” one of the best moments of the show.
The choreography, by Anthony Van Laast was one of my favorite parts of the entire production. The use of flippers in “Lay All Your Love On Me” was hysterical and extremely creative and the male chorus gave an extremely strong performance throughout the entire show.
There is bound to be technical issues in any performance, especially in a foreign theater, but throughout the entire show there seemed to be an imbalance of microphone volume and the volume of the orchestra. Many times throughout the show, especially during Shai Yammanee’s performance of “Knowing Me, Knowing You” as Sam Carmichael, the orchestra was too soft, and the volume of the actors would dwindle. And when there wasn’t an imbalance between the actors and the orchestra, the actor’s microphones would cut out, or not be on at the beginning of an actor’s line. Understandably, there will always be issues opening night of a show, but there were just too many audio issues during the performance to keep the audience engaged.
Mamma Mia! is a hit for many reasons, ABBA’s music making it a crowd favorite. But with all of the dramatics and audio issues, you would have better luck staying home and watching the movie instead. With all of this in mind, the production was extremely entertaining. The music, dancing and comedy throughout the show made it extremely fun to watch, and if the technical issues and spotty acting can be overlooked, then the show is sure to put a spring in your step for the rest of the evening. Mamma Mia! is directed by Phyllida Lloyd and runs at the Orpheum through February 12.