I received a pair of tickets to see Benny Andersson & Bjorn Ulvaeus’ MAMMA MIA! Farewell tour at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre to facilitate this review. However, all opinions are my own.
Wow! MAMMA MIA! is a show that I first saw at the Paramount theater about 15 years ago on its first national tour, so naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to see it again here in Seattle on its farewell tour! The music of MAMMA MIA! is comprised solely of the music of the wildly popular 70’s disco-pop group, ABBA, with songs being cleverly adapted to fit within the plot of the show.
MAMMA MIA! is set in Greece on a small island inside a hotel and bar owned by Donna, whose daughter, Sophie, is planning to get married. Sophie has never known who her father is but wants him to give her away at the wedding, and unbeknownst to Donna, Sophie has discovered her mother’s old journal and has invited three men who could possibly be her dad! Also arriving for the festivities are two of Donna’s oldest friends, and former bandmates, Tanya and Rosie, who altogether used to be a 70’s girl power group called, “Donna and the Dynamos.” The three women catch up, and Donna bemoans all the hard work she’s constantly doing maintaining the hotel, the cast sings “Money, Money, Money,” a dark song with a powerful beat, the first big crowd pleaser. Later that day the three men Sophie invited arrive, Harry, Sam, and Bill, but Sophie won’t tell them why they are there. Eventually, Donna runs into her three old flames and runs to Tanya and Rosie for comfort, what ensues is a hilarious number “Chiquitita” that starts off somber but builds to a farcical ending. Now feeling a better, Tanya and Rosie work to convince Donna she can still be the woman she used to be (“Dancing Queen”) and they decide to get the band back together for one last performance at the bachelorette party.
That night at the bachelorette party, Donna and the Dynamos put on a performance of “Super Trouper” fully done up in their full Lycra and spandex costumes, much to the delight of the tavern goers. Eventually, the men’s stag party shows up and crashes the party, giving Sophie another chance to talk to all three of her potential dads. All three come to believe that they are each Sophie’s dad, and all three make the offer to walk her down the aisle, leading Sophie to be hopelessly confused, and unable to cope, she leaves the party. The act closes with “Voulez-Vouz,” which is definitely a show stopper, loud, and energetic, featuring the entire cast.
The second act opens with Sophie having a nightmare about her three dads, all of them trying to walk her down the aisle, and she can’t figure out what to do (“Under Attack”). Donna gets the opportunity to speak individually with Sam, Harry, and Bill, throughout the morning and we learn a bit more about all of their former relationships. While Tanya is down on the beach, she is repeatedly approached by a young man who works at the bar, whom she continually declines to see (“Does Your Mother Know”), which is one of my favorite numbers in the show. It’s got a lot of well-done physical comedy, great dancing, and strong singing. Later, while speaking with Sam and recounting their last days, Donna sings “The Winner Takes it All,” a truly heartbreaking song, sung beautifully.
As Bill and Rosie help set up chairs for the wedding, Rosie makes several passes at Bill, singing “Take a Chance on Me,” one of ABBA’s biggest hits, and an absolute crowd pleaser, with the whole audience clapping along throughout. It’s finally time for the wedding…And I don’t want to give away the ending! The show closes with a mini-concert of songs from the play, so make sure you stick around, I think this was my favorite part!
The actors and actresses all do a good job, but there were two standouts for me who were even better. Cashelle Butler, who plays Tanya, has a stellar voice and is great physical and comedic actress, and Betsy Padamonsky, who plays Donna. She has a rich voice, and is very expressive on stage, lending a lot of real emotion to numbers like “The Winner Takes it All” and “Slipping Through my Fingers.”
The sets are all serviceable, though nothing memorable, however, the costumes are garish and bright, sequined, and spandex. Everything you could hope for from a musical featuring ABBA! The show features lots of sexual innuendoes, but I would imagine most of that would go way over little kids heads, so this is probably a pretty safe show for kids of any theatre-going age.
All-in-all, this was an excellent production of one of the longest running musicals ever. Check it out now while you can, as this is the farewell tour! The production will be here in Seattle for a week. Performances run March 28th to April 2nd, including matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are available at the box office, online at http://www.stgpresents.org, or by calling tel: 1-800-745-3000. Tickets start very reasonably at $25! Hurry!
Seattle Theatre Group (STG) is the 501 (c)(3) non-profit arts organization that owns and operates the historic Paramount Theatre and operates the Moore and Neptune Theatres in Seattle, Washington. Our mission is to make diverse performing arts and education an integral part of our region’s cultural identity while keeping these landmark venues alive and vibrant. STG presents a variety of shows from Broadway, off-Broadway, dance and Jazz to comedy, concerts of all genres, speakers and family shows – at all these historic theatres in Seattle and at venues throughout Puget Sound and Portland, Oregon.