At the Orpheum in Minneapolis on February 7th the farewell tour of Mamma Mia! had its opening night. Taking viewers to the island so many have wanted to see again the musical had an air of camaraderie that spanned the audience and cast alike. Before the show when the Overture was played everyone was swaying and so well rehearsed it seemed an understudy could be had at a moment's notice. All genders and ages were represented-everyone was there to rejoice in a stress-relieving performance of friendship, love, and finding how to be okay with who you are.
In this tour the supporting cast did everything support should do and more. Rosie and Tanya (Sarah Smith & Cashelle Butler) members of a bygone band brought it home. Donna's best friends kept the show alive with raunchy comedy that had the audience swooning like several of their suitors. Both exuded a dynamic talent for character acting and by any means easily outshone the leads vocally. Sam Carmichael (Shai Yammanee) also had a notably sweet low tenor. Moreover, the ensemble was genius in their acting, song, and dance. What could have been an otherwise flat show was kept fizzing by the bubbly energy of every single ensemble member. On the other side of the spectrum, Sophie (Lizzie Markson) was a slight disappointment. Directed to, or not her acting was portraying an 8th grade valley girl who at the cusp of being genuine disappears. Her singing was incredibly bright and nasal, but had occasional warmer moments which leads one to wonder why she sang so annoyingly if she knew how to sing differently. Donna (Betsy Padamonsky) was okay. Her solo alto was fine, but in choral moments shot the ball out of the park. She lacked the range needed for the role, but tried to make up for it in other ways. Good, or bad the audience was determined to enjoy the classic that is Mamma Mia!
The set and tech that made the island was economic and efficient. While minimalist the sheer number of bodies and tech easily filled the stage. Kudos to tech in Voulez-Vous for such ingenuity in lighting transitions! The well rehearsed work was effortlessly done giving the asides more meaning. Speaking of well rehearsed the Dance Captain (Danny Lopez) and Choreographer (Anthony Van Laast) deserve honorable mention! Mr. Laast chose great group moves and orchestrated the beloved diving scene comprised of a male kicking line in flippers with ease. The high level of production in this farewell tour made it enjoyable for those who go to the theatre for the acting, or the tech. The only criticism needed is that the lead's mikes had to be turned up. Many of these iconic songs are very low in a female's range and it is common sense that humans pick up high notes better than low notes. With such a talented (but loud) live band there should have been accommodations.
Mamma Mia! was everyone's show. All were there to love it and jam in the seats. Loved and flawed Mamma Mia! showed characters and audience accepting of warts and all. From the interactive conductor, to poignant acting that needed an audience's reply it brought viewers back to the beloved island.