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Mamma Mia!

a Musical Comedy
by Catherine Johnson (book) and Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Stig Anderson (songs)

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 5241

SHOWING : March 08, 2018 - April 22, 2018



A mother. A daughter. Three possible dads. And a trip down the aisle you’ll never forget! "Mamma Mia!" combines the timeless tunes of super group ABBA with a sunny, funny tale that unfolds on a Greek island paradise. On the eve of her wedding, Sophie’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother’s past back into her life for the first time in 20 years. Must-see theatre with all of your favorite ABBA songs, non-stop laughs, and explosive dance numbers.

Director Justin Anderson
Sky Nick Arapoglou
Ensemble Joe Arnotti
Sophie Sheridan Hannah Church
Ensemble Branden Cleveland
Swing Annie Cook
Tanya Terry Henry
Ensemble Jenna Jackson
Ensemble Imani Joseph
Sam Carmichael Chris Kayser
Donna Sheridan Kristin Markiton
Ensemble Candice McLellan
Rosie Marcie Millard
Pepper Joseph Jong Pendergrast
Bill Austin Travis Smith
Eddie Benjamin Strickland
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Great Big Stuff
by playgoer
Monday, March 12, 2018
It’s loud. So loud that when an actor’s body microphone isn’t turned on in time, their words are totally inaudible. So loud that when an actor’s body microphone isn’t turned off in time, their stray cough can cover up someone else’s line. Sound designer Rob Brooksher hasn’t amped the sound levels up to eardrum-bursting levels, but certainly up to body-thumping level.

It’s busy. Ricardo Aponte’s choreography is full of motion to the point of appearing frenzied. Justin Anderson’s blocking fills the stage with ensemble activity that draws the eye in all sorts of directions. Kevin Frazier’s lighting design seems to delight in flashing brilliant colors across the set just to increase the sense of busy visual excess.

Julie Ray’s unit set nicely portrays a plaza outside a Greek island taverna, all stone and cream and Aegean blue, with lots of exits to the wings. When the set is used for interior scenes, though, the transformations are a bit clunky and the atmosphere is still all open-air. Alan Yeong’s never-ending costume parade also has a few clunkers. Marcie Millard is dressed in dowdy fashions throughout, and the 70’s fashions for "Super Trouper" are laughably tacky. Of these three outfits, two have a single long silver sleeve, but on opposite sides. Perfect for choreography that shows a lead singer flanked by two backup singers making mirrored movements. So what sort of choreography do we have for "Super Trouper?" Unison movements. It’s like the whole production has been thrown in a blender, and all we can see is the elements rotating in an endless, mindless blur. When, at the performance I attended, a mask fell off in the ineffective black light nightmare sequence at the start of act two, seeing it kicked around the stage seemed as random as the show as a whole.

The story of "Mamma Mia!" is not the most original, being more of a situation (which of three men is the father of the bride?) than an affecting plot. Director Justin Anderson doesn’t seem to have given his actors much in the way of motivation to make the story ring true. We have some actors relying primarily on their innate charm (Marcie Millard, Terry Henry, Greg Frey, Nick Arapoglou) while only a couple of others give what can be termed actual performances. Kristin Markiton is a marvel as Donna Sheridan, the mother of the bride, using her splendid voice and lovely, expressive face to erase any memory of Meryl Streep from the movie. Travis Smith has some nice moments as one of her suitors, but the memory of their chemistry from "The Bridges of Madison County" throws off the direction of the plot. The suitor Donna eventually chooses is played by Chris Kayser, whose performance is characterized primarily by the pained expression in his eyes as he sings that seems to be questioning "will I be able to hit these notes?" The answer is more often "almost" than "yes."

Aside from Donna, the other main character is her daughter Sophie, played by Hannah Church. Ms. Church has a wonderful voice, but she can’t escape the grating quality of the character she plays. Sophie has secretly invited her mother’s three former lovers to her wedding, in the hopes of determining which of them is her biological father, and her machinations and resulting discomfort overwhelm the role.

The ensemble all give fine performances, with true dance moves given only to a select group. Joseph Pendergrast unsurprisingly impresses with his break dancing, and Joe Arnotti’s crisp moves attract special attention. Everyone adds to the frenetic throngs of activity on the stage.

"Mamma Mia!" is a jukebox musical, with ABBA’s songs hung on the thin plot. There are lots of aging ABBA fans who will likely delight in this show. Ann-Carol Pence has done her usual fine job as music director, so the songs (minus Mr. Kayser’s) all sound great. But, as far as I’m concerned, Aurora’s production of "Mamma Mia!" is a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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