Friday, December 9, 2016

reviews - MAMMA MIA! - National Tour: ASU Gammage

Cashelle Butler, Betsy Padamonsky, and Sarah Smith
Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through December 11th.

"...Mamma Mia! must be one of the most beloved musicals in the history of theatre. Truly, it is quite phenomenal. And, let’s be honest, at this point, it’s also critic proof. ...Mamma Mia! is not the story of the Swedish pop band ABBA...Playwright Catherine Johnson created a new, fictional tale surrounding 20-year old, Sophie (Lizzie Markson) who lives with her mother, Donna (Betsy Padamonsky), on a sun-drenched Greek island, and she’s about to get married. But there’s an issue. ...
Sophie wants her father to give her away, but she’s not entirely sure who her father is.  It’s a fluff plot...but Mamma Mia! isn’t about a story...It’s about ABBA’s songs. Those infectious beats, hooks and lyrics are seventies pop....What playwright Johnson did with her script was not so much shoehorn songs in to fit the situation, the situation evolved because of the song that was going to follow. ...The lyrics are not totally apropos to the scene, but they sound as if they are, backed by a familiar melody, and that’s what audiences respond to, and love. The current touring production is high energy without a moment’s pause. Acting is broad, characters comically mug, and much of the dialog is delivered at full volume. So, too, is the music. What audiences are laughing at is not necessarily what’s being said, but how the actors are saying it, accompanied with wide-eyed expressions and exaggerated body movements. Those seated in the back row of the Gods, way up top, will have no trouble identifying the visual laugh cues....And audiences are guaranteed to leave happy. ...As with most jukebox musicals such as Jersey Boys and Beautiful: The Carole King Story, audiences always leave with those famous songs bouncing in their heads, but with Mamma Mia! Farewell Tour there’s something more. Just like the title suggests, they’ll feel as though they’ve just seen old friends perform a concert of their greatest hits...." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"Mamma Mia! may not be the greatest musical but it sure is a lot of fun. It's also a show that looks to have no end in sight. After a healthy run on Broadway, a successful film adaptation, and a lengthy national tour, not to mention that it's still playing in London, the show makes one final tour across the U.S. before running, one assumes, forever in local theatre productions. The "farewell tour" comes to ASU Gammage for a week long run through Sunday. Using the hit songs of '70s Swedish pop band ABBA, Mamma Mia! has a fairly simple, but fun, plot. Set in Greece, 20-year-old Sophie is about to be married, but she has no idea who her father is as her mother Donna has never told her. When Sophie finds her mother's diary it makes it seem like there are three men who could be her dad. So Sophie decides to invite all three to her wedding, unbeknownst to her mother...With over 20 ABBA songs, a few of which are uncomfortably shoehorned into the musical, this is an upbeat show filled with romance, comedy, and the beating thump of many familiar hit ABBA tunes. It also has an ending that isn't exactly predictable. The cast for this farewell tour is quite good, though Betsy Padamonsky's Donna is a little too shrill in the first act before blossoming into a much warmer portrayal in act two. As Sophie, Lizzie Markson is the best I've seen in this role, with an appropriate sense of urgency in her desire to find out who her father is but also with shades of fear and confusion that what she will discover won't live up to her dreams. Padamonsky and Markson have good singing voices and form a close, realistic relationship. The same can be said about Cashelle Butler and Sarah Smith who play Donna's good friends and former singing partners. With Padamonsky, they form a trio that makes it seem like they've been best friends for years, and they harmonize beautifully together. Their vocal work on "Super Trouper" is stunning. Butler and Smith also provide plenty of comic relief which they deliver with expert timing. As the three potential fathers, Marc Cornes, Andrew Tebo, and Shai Yammanee present clear portrayals of these three very different men....The direction, choreography, and creative elements are all based on the original London and New York productions. While Mark Thompson's scenic elements are considerably downsized from what you would have seen on Broadway or London's West End, and much smaller than other tours that play Gammage, his costumes are on par with his original designs which are fun, colorful and character specific. Phyllida Lloyd's direction and Catherine Johnson's book make this more than just a bunch of characters singing familiar songs, or a campy karaoke jukebox musical, with developed characters who don't just sing the familiar lyrics....While there aren't a lot of large ensemble dance numbers in the show, Anthony Van Laast's choreography for the "Voulez-Vous" number that ends act one is a knock out, with tight, synchronized movement for the entire company which ends the act on a huge high.... Mamma Mia! is a fun and infectious musical that fans of ABBA and fans of romance will enjoy. Is it a great musical? No. But with a talented cast who deliver characters you care about and the non-stop ABBa songs, it sure amounts to a thoroughly enjoyable night out." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

COMING SOON --Chris Curcio, KBAQ (click here to read the complete review)

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