Upon entering the Orpheum on Tuesday, the stage was already set in a maritime fashion. As the soon-to-be audience entered, they were free to look out on a stage lit with beige and aqua. This being a clear yet abstract representation of the Greek beaches that make up the setting of Mamma Mia!, the iconic musical each patron was about to experience. Mamma Mia is a story revolving around Sophie Sheridan’s (Lizzie Markson) marriage to her fianceé Sky (Dustin Harris Smith) and her desire to have her biological father walk her down the aisle. The only issue is that Sophie’s mother Donna (Betsy Padamonsky) isn’t aware of who Sophie’s father is, as she had three love affairs the year she got pregnant with Sophie. The ensuing chaos occurs after Sophie contacts Donna’s three previous lovers (Marc Cornes, Shai Yammanee, Andrew Tebo), inviting them to her wedding. The opening setting’s balance between realism and fantasy continued throughout the production.
Scenes throughout the show involving only principle characters were staged in a more realistic way than scenes involving the ensemble. This contrast offered something for everyone, whether an audience member preferred a heart wrenching ballad over a loud and chaotic dream sequence or vice versa. Shai Yammanee”s song “S.O.S.” appealed to the former audience greatly and showcased him very nicely. Padamonsky gave a similarly impressive performance with “Winner Takes it All”, however I personally missed many of her words throughout the show due to a lack of diction as well as mic issues.
Fans of huge numbers would have enjoyed “Money, Money, Money” for its wonderfully clean unison movement and its clear dynamics. The start of Act 2 provided a chance for the lighting designer (Howard Harrison) to create a surreal dreamscape and create it he did. The lights worked together perfectly with the glowing costumes by Mark Thompson. This was a standout scene in my opinion and the choreography done by Anthony Van Laast was impeccable. The anticipated “Dancing Queen’ did not disappoint. The harmonies executed by Padamonsky and the unbelievably talented actresses playing her sidekicks (Cashelle Butler and Sarah Smith) were unforgettable.
A critique of the show may be that the acting exhibited by most of the actors within the production was over the top and unsophisticated. Compared with other shows that have come to the Orpheum I would have to agree. There were also sound balance problems with the band and the actors’ mics that were at times hard to ignore. However, as someone enjoying the show for the crazy silliness that it was, the acting and small tech issues did not take away from my experience all that much.
Lastly, a motif of a moon was used throughout the show to indicate the passage of time. I particularly liked this subtle detail as I thought it spoke to the polish and vision of the show as a whole. I believe that Mamma Mia has something in it for everyone looking to have an enjoyable and lightly comedic night.