Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

September 12, 2022

REVIEW: Majestic Theater, "Mamma Mia!"

Majestic Theater, West Springfield, MA
through Oct. 16, 2022 (run extended, call to check)
by Shera Cohen

I doubt if there is anyone who could leave the 
production of "Mamma Mia!" at The Majestic Theater without singing or humming one of the many songs aloud, or at least has an ear- worm stuck in their head. "Dancing Queen," "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme", and the musical's title "Mamma Mia!" instantly come to mind. All of the music are ABBA hits wrapped around a sweet, mundane story line. Some songs fit the plot quite well, others do not. But who cares? 

For those who have not seen MM on a stage or at the movies: Set on a Greek island, 20-year-old Sophie is about to marry cute guy Sky. Sophie wants her dad to walk her down the aisle, but she doesn't know which of mom's 3 past boyfriends was the sperm donor. All are nice guys who want to step up. Mom has loyal but somewhat whacko lady friends for additional comic relief. All works out, although not quite as expected.

The "serious" relationship, which calls for serious acting is that of Donna, our heroine (Cate Damon) and Sam, the assumed father (Ben Ashley). Each has acted numerous times on The Majestic's stage and each are proven entities in their vocal ability, acting skills, and nuances, which are so important in making a character a real human. The full cast numbers 20. They know who they are, and the space for all those names to credit goes beyond this review. I'll just say, that except for two actors who didn't sing in unison, I find no flaws.

The Majestic and its founder Danny Eaton celebrate the theatre's 25th Anniversary with a literal bang as resident music director Mitch Chakour conducts his five-piece band (only 5?) to perform the prelude compilation of hits. Eaton's director's note states his hope to make this take on MM somehow unique to all of the thousands of MMs throughout the world. That's a tough challenge. Eaton especially credits the backstage crew in making this Greek island a place of freedom, joy, and separation from any mainland worries.

There are also too many names on the list of people who shine backstage: designers of lights, sound, set, costumes, and all those who the audience never sees. The Majestic's program book, as opposed to all other programs that I have seen in local and regional theatre, gives headshots and written bio credit to all these talented individuals. If adding the cast and crew together, the bottom line is that the Majestic's season opener is BIG.

I have never seen a full house at a Sunday matinee. I have also never seen such an enthusiastic audience. Not to worry, masks are required. A helpful side benefit, at least for me, is to muffle the audience members who insist on singing along. Sure, I'd like to join them, but don't. However, the end of MM is a surprise to newbies, when singing is definitely encouraged.

Special kudos to Russell Garrett who did double duty as one of the potential dads, but more importantly as choreographer. Two show-stopping numbers with all onstage, coupled with the musical's ancillary finale, prompt audience members to bounce up to give a deserved standing ovation.