Review: Mamma Mia!

Review | by Doug Gallant

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When members of your audience hum the music to your show on their way into the theatre that’s a pretty good indication you may have a hit on your hands. If they’re still humming the music on the way out, you can bank on it. And that’s the way it played out Friday night when Mamma Mia! returned to the stage of the Charlottetown Festival where it was first staged in 2016.

Twenty years after its premiere in London’s West End this engaging and hugely entertaining tale of a young woman’s quest to discover the identity of her real father continues to draw us in with its cleverly conceived and well-constructed storyline and a musical score comprised of some two dozen of ABBA’s most endearing pop songs.

More than 60 million people worldwide have fallen in love with this musical and it appears that that love affair isn’t about to end anytime soon. Based on the reception the show received Friday night it certainly isn’t going to end in Charlottetown.

For the benefit of anyone unfamiliar with the storyline – yes there are still people out who may not know the storyline even though they know all the music by heart – Mamma Mia! uses ABBA’s deep catalogue of hits to tell the story of a young woman named Sophie who’s about to be married and in keeping with tradition wants her father to walk her down the aisle.

Problem is, Sophie doesn’t know who her father is and Donna, her fiercely independent single mother, has declined to tell her, keeping things pretty close to her chest on the small Greek island where she operates a little tourist hotel. But when Sophie comes across her mother’s diary she discovers accounts of three separate romantic encounters with three different men, any one of whom could be her father.

Unbeknownst to her mother Sophie sends wedding invitations to all three men, none of whom understand why they were invited and all of whom believe the invitations came from her mother. All three men show up on the island just in time for the wedding – as do two of Donna’s former bandmates from her all-girl rock’n’roll act Donna and the Dynamos – and the game is on.

From then on it’s’ borderline mayhem as Sophie attempts to narrow down the field and deal with her mother who’s not at all pleased to see three former lovers show up at the wedding, one of whom she’s still extremely pissed at.

Add alcohol to the mix, assorted and sundry wedding guests looking for a good time and an almost non-stop barrage of hits that includes “Dancing Queen,” “Money, Money, Money,” “Super Trouper,” “The Winner Takes It All” and “SOS,” and you have the makings of a wedding no one will ever forget.

And the makings of one hell of a show as well, one with plenty of laughs, big production numbers with exciting choreography and big vocal arrangements that once again showcase the depth of the talent in this year’s festival company.

Rebecca Poff, who was battling a bronchial infection opening night, was bloody brilliant as Donna , the mother of the bride and Katie Kerr continues to steal hearts as Sophie the bride-to-be who so desperately wants her father on her arm on her big day that she’s prepared to turn everybody’s life upside down, including her own and that of her husband-to-be Sky, nicely done by Aaron Hastelow.

Stephen Guy-McGrath, Cameron MacDuffee and Michael Torontow were well-cast as Sophie’s three prospective dads, Bill, Harry and Sam, and Sara-Jeanne Hosie and Nicola Dawn Brook score big points as Donna’s former bandmates Tanya and Donna.

Some good people in smaller supporting roles as well, from Anthony MacPherson and Connor Lucas as Pepper and Eddie, the hired help, to Kimberly-Ann Truong and Hailey Lewis as Lisa and Ali, Sophie’s bridesmaids.

Tip of the hat to director Adam Brazier and music director Craig Fair for a feel-good show that will make you want to sing along all night. But please don’t. Tip of the hat as well to the show’s design team, set and costume designer Cory Sincennes in particular for creating a set that is both eye catching and insanely versatile at the same time.

Doug Gallantreview