What more can possibly be said about Mama Mia! The worldwide phenomenon stage musical and hit movie featuring the songs of Swedish supergroup ABBA?
Well, plenty given the high-energy production currently playing at Skylight Music Theater that’s just downright fun and silly and delightful and, well, all things ABBA.
So, first off, for ABBA fans (count me in) there’s 23 songs, including many hits. Since the songs came first, all credit goes to Catherine Johnson’s sitcom-ish book, which details the story of young Sophie, who’s invited three men—Sam, Bill and Harry—to her wedding, hoping to find out which one is her biological father Her mother, Donna, is unsure herself and has no idea about the invites as her past swoops in on the upcoming wedding festivities. And therein lies the silly storyline that merely exists to celebrate the great timeless music of ABBA.
It’s all there. And done up in over the top, tongue-in-both-cheeks hilarity. Director and Choreographer Monica Kapoor makes the most of the comedic elements of Mama Mia! while showcasing the hits. “Chiquitita” is straight-out hilarious as Donna’s two good friends from her old girl group try to cheer her up over the lovers’ appearance. The visual sight gags add much to what could just be another song being sung. Ditto for the very funny sendup of the groomsmen mocking Sophie’s beau, Sky, in “Lay All Your Love on Me,” all dressed in scuba gear flip flopping about.
Even less-known songs like “Our Last Summer” and “Thank You for the Music” resonate given the staging and settings, and in particular the all-around talented group of 16 actors. Leading the pack is Lisa Estridge as Donna, whose powerhouse vocals bring out the depth and emotional levels beyond the recognizable pop melodies. As her two close friends and former back-up singers, Kelly Britt (Tanya) and Amanda Satchell (Rose) deliver their own star tuns and really hold the stage in their own numbers.
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And the trio of former flames, Ben George (Harry), Jake Horstmeier (Bill) and Victor Wallace (Sam), are pitch perfect as the very different counterparts to the various parts of Donna’s life back then—and now.
And then there’s those costumes! Credit goes to Jason Orlenko, who takes the sequins and satins and knee high boots just high enough to go over the top in such a gloriously campy style. And nowhere is that more apparent than in the exuberant “encore” of the super hit, “Dancing Queen.”
Mama Mia! is the feel-good musical of the start of the theater season. So, for those who love ABBA and Mama Mia!, here we go again. How can we resist you?
Mama Mia! runs through Oct. 16 in the Cabot Theater at the Broadway Theater Center, 158 N. Broadway, Milwaukee. Run time: 2 hours, 40 minutes including a 20-minute intermission. For more information, call the Box Office at: 414-291-7800, or visit: skylightmusictheatre.org.