Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

December 2, 2009

“Mamma Mia!”

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through December 6, 2009
by Shera Cohen

What can a reviewer write about “Mamma Mia!” the fifth time around? First, this musical is obviously worth seeing over and over again. Second, it’s two hours of sheer joy as nearly everyone in the audience has a constant smile. The smile doesn’t come off for the next two days – just about the same time the humming of “Dancing Queen” and “Honey, Honey” disappears from the brains of those in attendance at the Bushnell. Third, the concept of weaving a story and plot around already existing music to create one huge musical success is not so ingenious, yet why wasn’t it done before?

“Mamma Mia!” is the marriage of the old “B” Gina Lolabrigida movie, “Buena Sera, Mrs. Campbell,” with the “A” hits of ABBA. A young Gina slept with three guys; the result was a baby girl. Who’s the daddy? Gina doesn’t really care, but now 20-year-old Sophie yearns for her father to give her away at her wedding. Substitute former rocker Donna for Gina. She’s spent her life as a successful, tough, and vulnerable single mom. Surprise – three possible dads arrive.

The Greek Isle setting is amass with energetic twenty-somethings and six adults. All have the opportunity to sing and dance – sometimes as an ensemble (an opening number “Money, Money, Money”), other times as duos (the poignant “Our Last Summer”) and a string of solos. Michelle Dawson (Donna) has a raspiness to her voice which gives power to “The Winner Takes It All.” Rachel Tyler (Donna’s buddy Tanya) often steals the show with her terrific voice (“Does Your Mother Know”) and comedic movements. Some voices were weaker against the 10-member, highly skilled, rock band. Choreography ranges from a funny romantic flirting of “Take a Chance on Me” to the big numbers with dancers in big feet (scuba flippers).

It can probably be assumed that “Mamma Mia!” is a chick show. Well, yes and no. It wasn’t just the ladies who popped up for the standing ovation and sing-alongs. The hundreds of kid audience members cheered and clapped as well. Alright, this musical is not a cerebral classic, but isn’t it a joy to see children appreciate theatre?