Mamma Mia! is not the eighth longest running show on Broadway without good reason. The story of a woman’s search to discover who her father is in time for the big wedding pulls viewers in with music by ABBA, they stay for the humor and strong connections with the story’s characters. An otherwise stunning production of Mamma Mia! at the Orpheum Theater let down by Lizzie Markson’s performance.
Lizzie Markson’s portrayal of Sophie was cringeworthy and otherwise exhausting to endure. Markson’s overuse of hand gestures and Disney-Princess-like inflection leaves the audience wondering when they left Greece and entered the Magic Kingdom. Her high pitched and otherwise childish tone made it difficult to believe her character. She seemed out of place surrounded by mature actors creating a believeable environment. Markson sang straight out of her nose, resulting in a completely flat tone which added to the immaturity of her voice.
Betsy Padamonsky’s performance as Donna was absolutely marvelous. She fit the part perfectly, naturally taking on the role of the artsy woman wildly ahead of her times. Donna’s do-it-yourself attitude paired with Padamonsky’s vibrant aura and youthful hop in her step created the fun loving, adventurous individual the story revolves around.
The chemistry between Donna, Tanya (Cashelle Butler) and Rosie (Sarah Smith) was outstanding. The audience could feel the strong connection the trio possessed. It seemed as though they had known each other for years. The three joked constantly and their ongoing antics provided contagious laughter throughout the entirety of the production.
The technical aspects of the show were minimal, but well done. Each scene takes place either in or around Donna’s taverna. The set itself is fairly simple, and remains on stage the entire show. To differentiate between locations, the walls are spun and props are changed. This worked well to create the environment and intimacy of the small island.
Projections of water were used for the duration of the production, and outdoor lighting mimicked sunlight, as the story takes place on an island. Indoor lighting cast a gridded shadow upon a scene to create the illusion of light peeking through cracks in the ceiling.
The aspect of the show that seemed the most unprofessional were the scene changes. The actors did all the set changes, and multiple times throughout the show an actor would completely drop character. They had created this wonderful persona, but as soon as the lights went dim and they lost all vibrance and life in them to change the set. This was extremely distracting and pulled the audience away from the fantasy world the cast worked so hard to create.
Whether you have been a fan since the opening of the show, or if your heart is set on the film adaption, this live production of Mamma Mia! is one you’ll never forget. The character connections as well as the outstanding soundtrack are what make Mamma Mia! as iconic as it remains today. This timeless tale filled with love and laughter will be showing at the Orpheum Theater through February 12th, and it is one show any theatergoer will not want to miss.