Mamma Mia - musical review (October 13, 2002) [some slight staging spoilers]

We had seen this show once previously when it was playing at the Shubert Theatre, before it made its way to Broadway, and we had absolutely loved the show. When we heard that it was coming to the Ahmanson at the Music Center, we knew we wanted to go again.

We ended up sitting in the back row of the mezzanine, which worked out well as we had a good view of the stage, and there was no one to annoy when we stood up during part of the show.

The musical is set on a tiny Greek island and is the story of Sophie, a young woman on the verge of marriage who invites three additional men to her wedding, one of whom she has deduced is her father. During the course of the show, her mother Donna must own up to her past, while Sophie must decide what future is in store for her, all incorporating about a dozen songs from the musical group Abba. There are two additional Abba songs that are subtly snuck into the show, either as a snippet or by way of reference.

As a show in its own right, I think "Mamma Mia" succeeds very well. The story is interesting, involved without being too confusing, and there are many likable characters that you meet along the way. While there are moments that are contemplative and thought-provoking, above all else, the show is a lot of fun. Even for someone who is unfamiliar with Abba, I think the show is quite enjoyable. If, however, you're a fan of Abba and am familiar with their music, like we are, the show is an outright delight. The transitions to certain songs and between scenes is done very well, and the staging is wonderful. There are two particular bits of stage business during the song "Mamma Mia" that we had loved when we first saw the show and were happy to see was still in the show. There is also a particularly clever transition to the song "The Winner Takes It All". You can also see how much fun the performers are having in performing their parts. I absolutely loved the women who played Sophie and Donna in the Shubert production, and the two women performing the roles for the Ahmanson production are quite good as well. The woman who performs Sophie did a particularly good job with the song "The Name of the Game". The woman who performs the role of Tanya, one of Donna's old friends, is the same actress that we saw at the Shubert, and she is absolutely hilarious. The man performing the role of Sam, one of the potential fathers, is also the same person who performed the role at the Shubert, and he is quite good as well.

The show ends in what is essentially a mini-concert, though the audience at this showing was much more sedate than the audience at the Shubert. This time, rather than the entire auditorium up and singing and dancing to the music, there were only maybe 20 or so of us in the mezzazine doing that.

"Mamma Mia" is being performed at the Ahmanson through November 23, 2002. Go here for more information. You can also go to the official site for additional information about the show and the various touring companies. The show is coming to the Orange County Performing Arts Center next summer, and I expect we'll go see it again. Another touring company is scheduled to be in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay in February of 2003, and that may be an option for us as well.

A definite and emphatic recommend from me.


For the review of the musical as performed at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas in March 2003, please click here.



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