By Stephanie Wilks
May 3, 2012
If you’re wondering what Cincinnatians are singing in the shower this week, it’s the soundtrack to Mamma Mia! The Broadway show, currently in its 12th season, returned to the Aronoff Center stage last night to a full house of fans. We laughed, we danced, and we sang ourselves out the door.
The musical, written in 2000, showcases the songs of international pop group sensation ABBA and is now performed in over 16 languages. After reaching such acclaim on the stage, Mamma Mia! hit the big screen with a production that cast superstar Meryl Streep in the lead along with Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried, and Colin Firth. The 2008 movie became the highest grossing musical film worldwide. This is the kind of story that’s so corny and “feel good” that it’s attracted hundreds of millions of people to the stage, theater, and tube over the past decade. So to all you chick flick cynics out there—if you say you haven’t at least snuck a peek or two, I don’t believe you.
Sophie Sheridan, a soon-to-be-wed and fatherless 21-year-old played by Chloe Tucker, yearns to be escorted down the aisle by her father. The problem is, she doesn’t know who her father is. In “Honey, Honey,” she reads her mother’s old diary and invites her mother’s three past lovers to her wedding without her mom’s knowledge. To our delight, all three men show up to the Grecian isle and a multitude of awkward passionate conflicts ensue, providing plenty of opportunity for ABBA song and dance.
Chloe Tucker is a passionately convincing protagonist with charming vocal chords. In “Under Attack,” she experiences one of those strange and tumultuous dreams we can all relate to when trouble’s a-brewing. As a chorus dances around Sophie’s bed in flippers and glow-in-the-dark scuba gear, her three potential fathers push and pull her around the stage. Her fiancé Sky, played by Happy Mahaney, ultimately appears in a full wedding gown, chest exposed.
Playful, lewd gestures pepper this musical so often even Joey Votto couldn’t hit them all. Tanya, best friend of Sophie’s mother played by Alison Ewing, provides ample comedic relief with her sexual confidence, over exposed legs, and licentious references of the 1970’s “glory days.” Sexual references and groping are plentiful as Tanya humorously taunts an infatuated young man during, “Does Your Mother Know.” Sophie’s mother Donna, played by Kaye Tuckerman, makes no qualms about recreational drug use references with former boyfriend Harry Bright, and there’s even an animalistic make-out romp in the church between Rosie and Bill Austen during “Take A Chance On Me.”
Because Sophie and her wedding unintentionally rake-up the past for her single-mother, it’s Donna who steals the show; coping with the presence of three former lovers, reminiscing in those past romances, and organizing her daughter’s wedding in scenes like, “Money, Money, Money,” “Mamma Mia,” and “Slipping Through My Fingers.” Although we could have been spared some overly aggressive drama hands, Kaye Tuckerman’s vocal performances were second to none. “The Winner Takes It All,” was undoubtedly the most soulful song of the night, reminding us all of a past lover who left us in the dust to pick up the pieces of our own heart. And because Donna was a 1970’s women’s rights supporter and disco lover turned jaded single mother and business owner, she appeals best to divas 40+, many of whom sported their own versions of Mamma Mia disco costumes to the show last night.
Speaking of costumes, the show is full of exciting attire and props. There’s no shortage of items used as pretend microphones for key scenes like “Dancing Queen,” and I especially enjoyed the Lilly Pulitzer-like resort-wear dawned by the cast in the final scenes. There’s guitar playing, glow sticks, scuba gear, Snooki-like grinding, and lots of dancing on tables. And when the show is over, and you’re standing for applause, don’t leave the theater. You’ll enjoy watching the grand finale concert complete with an array of colorful and glittery space-age disco costumes.
Mamma Mia! is fun, fiery, emotional, and unapologetically ridiculous. It’s no surprise why this show is the 10th longest running Broadway in history. Women love to love it, men hate to love it, everyone laughs, everyone dances, and everyone wins. And as Donna and The Dynamos so gloriously put it, “The Winners Take It All,” singing like “Dancing Queens” all the way home from the theater.
Mamma Mia! plays now until May 6th at The Aronoff Center.
*Photo credits: Joan Marcusto top ↑