“Mamma Mia” (Along With The Weather) Sizzle At The Muny

mia-juliaOne of the hottest nights of the year features a Muny show that gets both the cast and the audience working up a sweat- “Mamma Mia!” Nobody waits for the finale when you’re actually invited to get up and dance- people spontaneously stood and started moving with almost every ABBA number that broke out on stage. That’s the way it should be and the Muny is a perfect place for this kind of Public Display of Affection for the Swedish soft rock group and their electrifying music.

mia-menThe story is really nothing more than a thin plot to hold the songs together. In fact, it’s based (it would seem) on a failed musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane from the early 90’s called “Carmelina.” A young girl is getting married and she wants to invite her father but has no idea who he is. She and her mother live on a Greek island and even the mother is not sure who the father is since she had three men from her past who could all be the likely suspects. So this moves along with the music of ABBA and everyone is happy as the wedding finally takes place, Mamma is reunited with her true love and everyone gets to dress up in disco duds and dance the night away.

mia-weddingMuny favorite Julia Murney returns to play Donna, the mother and she belts some of the most intriguing music from the group including “The Name Of The Game,” “S.O.S.” and “Our Last Summer.” The men in her life are played by a strong trio including our town’s Ben Nordstrom as the British banker, Harry, Bill Austin and Justin Guarini as her long-lost love. Also bringing a lot of pizzazz to the stage is Ann Harada as friend Rosie and a delightful Jenny Powers as Tanya.

mia=3shotThe young lovers, Donna’s daughter Sophie and her fiancĂ© Sky, are played with appropriate mooniness and verve by Brittany Zeinstra and Jason Gotay. The back up ensemble is quite lively and fit in well in this show because of the chance for production numbers and specialty numbers to help fill out the plot line. The big finish is really something to behold as the brightly colored costumes and mix of dance moves both on stage and off make “Waterloo” a fitting tribute to ABBA’s spirited songbook.

Director Dan Knechtges and choreographer Jessica Hartman keep things moving- as well they should to celebrate this unique song cycle of a show. Michael Horsley’s orchestra keeps pace and Leon Dobkowski’s costumes fit the eclectic feel of the show beautifully. Tim Mackabee’s set and the lighting design of Nathan W. Sheuer are also top notch.

-finaleAlthough you may think you’ve seen “Mamma Mia!” a the Muny before- you have not. It seems the show comes to town every few years (I’ve seen it at least five times) but this is actually a Muny debut. Get there quick as the show runs through July 28th with another favorite, “Fiddler On The Roof,” following closely on their dancing heels.

 

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