Review: Mamma Mia!

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"Mamma Mia!" the musical puts the timeless tunes of ABBA front and center of a comical storyline.

Broadway at TPAC presents:
Mamma Mia! (April 26 – May 1; Ages 12 & older)
TPAC’s Jackson Hall
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
615-782-4040 • tpac.org
Showtimes: Tue – Thu 7:30 p.m., Fri 8 p.m., Sat 2 & 8 p.m., Sun 1 & 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $20 – $65

The music of Swedish pop group ABBA is front and center on TPAC’s stage this week with the return of the sensational, audience-favorite jukebox musical Mamma Mia!

While this “farewell tour” of the show is a non-equity production — noticeable by way of stripped down staging from prior productions along with a minuscule six-piece band (with the inclusion of some prerecorded music tracks blending in) — it still proves entertaining even though it’s not as spectacular as previous productions. After all, the show’s chock full of 22 ABBA songs from the 1970s, and it’s impossible to resist that timeless music like “Dancing Queen,” “Take a Chance on Me,” “Money, Money, Money,” “S.O.S.” “Chiquitita,” “Super Trouper” and others.

Catherine Johnson’s book weaves a storyline through the musical numbers that pulls it all together as soon-to-be married 20-year-old Sophie (Kyra Belle Johnson) invites all three of her potential fathers to her wedding unbeknownst to her mother, Donna (Erin Fish). Hilarity ensues when Donna’s three former lovers show up to the Greek island for the nuptials. Once they discover why they’re really there, each gent aims to do the fatherly thing by walking Sophie down the aisle and it turns into a competition of sorts.

Johnson certainly delivers a bubbly performance despite her meek approach to singing; better projection will serve her well. Laura Michelle Hughes and Sarah Smith as Donna’s best friends (Tanya and Rosie, respectively) provide most of the laughs, and together with Fish deliver most of the musical numbers, which they make memorable. “Dancing Queen” in Act I is the standout tune of the show featuring lots of physical comedy.

As the three possible dads, Andrew Tebo (Harry), Ryan M. Hunt (Bill) and Chad W. Fornwalt (Sam) also add bits of cheeky humor to the musical, Tebo proving to be the most natural stage talent among the guys.

Many of the show’s characters are on their own journeys of self-discovery. Although Sophie’s quest to discover her biological father doesn’t come to fruition, the lesson she learns along the way is a pertinent one for us all — that knowing who you are doesn’t come from anyone else but you.

Regardless of any casting choices, ABBA’s music remains to the star of the show. The highlight of Mamma Mia! is the encore when the cast returns to the stage decked out in vibrant ’70s disco attire (the costumes are fabulous!) leading the audience in a sing-along of a few of ABBA’s most beloved hits, and as the song says, “you can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life!”

 

 

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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