Every time Mama Mia comes to Minneapolis, people flock to see it because of it’s reputation as a hilarious, juke-box musical and the overall production of the Farewell Tour of Mama Mia is everything this beloved musical should be. With the exception of certain actor’s performances, the show is nearly perfect. The story is still the same, Sophia Sheridan (Lizzie Markson) invites her father to her wedding so he can walk her down the aisle to her handsome beau, Sky (Dustin Harris Smith), but isn’t sure who her father is. According to her mother’s diary, she has three possible fathers and decides to invite them all without telling her mother (Betsey Padamonsky), the independent, former disco-queen, Donna. What could go wrong? More and more characters arrive, including Sophie’s bridesmaids, Donna’s hilarious old bandmates, and finally, all three of Sophies possible fathers. High-jinks ensue as Sophie attempts to hide the men from her mom, while also trying to discover who is her real dad (without a paternity test).
In all honesty, it would be hard to make a production of Mama Mia that isn’t entertaining. ABBA’s music and the witty dialogue set up the show to be a fun musical experience, and this particular production doesn’t disappoint. However, all of the actors, from the ensemble to the lead characters, take this show to the next level. The absolute willingness of the actors to throw themselves around the stage and generally making complete fools of themselves, is exactly what this show needs to take it from mere fun to an over-the-top musical experience. The camaraderie between the Dynamos, Sophie’s friends, and the three dads, is the kind of comfortable friendship we all aspire to have and the performers make the audience feel included in those relationships with their inside jokes and huge personalities.
Betsey Padamonsky can sing well, but her acting feels insincere, especially when with possible dad, Sam (Shai Yammanee), or with Sophie. Yammanee is much more controlled on stage than the other characters, but his voice is stunning and definitely outshines Padamonsky in their duets. Lizzie Markson must also take partial responsibility for the lack of chemistry between Sophie and Donna, considering she also lacks the familiarity (And vocal ability) needed to make that relationship believable. Padamonsky only does the character of proud, crazy Donna justice when she is feeding off the energy of Donna’s two best friends and her former back-up singers, Rosie (Sarah Smith) and Tanya (Cashelle Butler). Butler and Smith give two of the best performances in the musical. Rosie’s passionate rendition of Take A Chance on Me is both vocally powerfully and completely hilarious. Tanya’s sassy number, Does Your Mother Know is equally funny and showcases the acting and dancing talent of the ensemble. These two women are so confident on stage and are the highlight of this musical.
Mama Mia is the perfect feel-good musical, especially in comparison to so many other successful Broadway shows which feature heavier story content. The audience wants to love Mama Mia and so it does. Every song immediately gets the audience singing and clapping along. It is such a unique theatre experience to see a show that is so infectious and uplifting.