I sat in the velvet seat with high expectations. "Mama Mia!" has been produced well as a play in the past and is a movie I love. I had my figures crossed that those expectations would be met. The performance of "Mama Mia!" at the Orpheum on February 7th, 2017 had strong elements of humor and conveyed the enjoyable story- but was highly inconsistent in terms of vocal performance and choreography.
This production of "Mama Mia!" is best described as a "hit and miss" production. The set was beautiful and the transitions were smooth and seamless. The costuming was well chosen and accurately portrayed each character. What confused me was the amazing choreography in some musical numbers vs. the lacking and dull choreography in others. "Money Money Money" was choreographed beautifully, with smart decisions of synced movement and a great performance from the ensemble. This added to my surprise when I found myself bored during slower songs. There was a serious lack of movement, sometimes with characters placed and singing to each other for a minute or so. Donna (Betsy Padamonsky) sings multiple ballads, and in each she fails to deliver emotion through her posture and body language. Her bellowing voice had stronger and weaker moments, but was not consistent enough to compensate for the lack of movement. There was a stiffness in her character that did not capture Donna's energy and fluctuating emotions.
Lizzie Markson captured the sweetness, youth, and challenges Sophie faces as a character, but had inconsistencies in her vocal performance. Her voice, although generally adequate, reached a painful, nasal squeak with her high notes. In all fairness, this may have been the microphones at fault, which were oddly placed on their foreheads. Markson and Padamonsky's shaky vocal performances were somewhat redeemed by Sam (Shai Yammanee). He had a controlled, smooth, strong voice; there was not one note missed, not one word falling flat. He was perfectly on key with confidence and created a story with his voice. His performance was extremely well done. The production was also redeemed by the amount of humor embodied into the show. I laughed more in this production than I do in the actual movie. From watching grown men in short wetsuits dance around with flippers on their feet to observing the best-friend interactions between Donna, Rosie (Sarah Smith), and Tanya (Cashelle Butler), the laughs roared in the crowd.
Despite the flaws in the production, the humor and content in the story made it enjoyable to watch. I was left wanting more vocally from the main female roles, but the beautiful set, the other strong vocalists, the humorous elements, and the classic ABBA soundtrack made for a satisfying performance.