SALT LAKE CITY — Rocking out in a thrilling hit, the Broadway Across America tour of Mamma Mia! visits Utah at the Eccles Theatre for one week only. With music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of the Swedish pop supergroup ABBA and book by Catherine Johnson, Mamma Mia! is a musical sensation that had audience members of all ages dancing, jiving, and having the time of their lives. Directed by the distinguished Phyllida Lloyd and choreographed by the acclaimed Anthony Van Laast, Mamma Mia! is an electrifying hit you will not want to miss.
Mamma Mia! is a romantic comedy featuring songs from the smash 1970’s group ABBA; premiering first as a musical in London’s West End in 1999, and opening on Broadway in 2001, the show as later adapted to a film musical in 2008. Set in Greece, Mamma Mia! tells the story of Donna Sheridan and her daughter Sophie, owners of a small Greek island resort. Sophie finds her mother’s journal and discovers that there were three possible men — Harry Bright, Bill Austin, and Sam Carmichael — who could have been her father, and Sophie decides to invite them all to her wedding. Friends of both Sophie and Donna (Tanya and Rosie) arrive on the island the day before the wedding, and the party gets started. Donna is shocked to see all three men on the island that same day and old feelings arise that she has suppressed for years. But who is Sophie’s father? Who will give her away at her wedding?
Christine Sherrill as Donna Sheridan did not disappoint, as she came out strong in “Money, Money, Money” with high energy and a captivating performance with the ensemble. Sherrill was a sensational star throughout the show, acting with great emotion and dramatics. When she first sees Bill (played by Jim Newman) and Harry (played by Rob Marnell) on the island, she is confused and bewildered until she sees Sam (played by Victor Wallace) and proclaims a very accusatory “YOU!” This theatrical moment leads into an amazing rendition of the title song. Not only could Sherrill pull off the high-energy rock songs, but her raw emotion in “The Winner Takes it All” was moving and outstanding. Wallace carried the role of Sam, Donna’s main love interest, with confidence and charisma. He sang a rocking yet touching duet with Sherrill in “S.O.S.”
Sophie (played by Alisa Melendez) was a burst of cheerful excitement and childish joy as she sang “Honey, Honey.” Her rendition of “Thank You for the Music” with Newman, Marnell, and Wallace was sweet and delightful, with the added touch of both Melendez and Marnell playing the guitar during the song. Melendez and Grant Reynolds (playing Sky, Sophie’s fiancé) had great chemistry as an engaged couple and playfully acted as their friends whisked them away to separate parties in “Lay All Your Love on Me.”
Donna’s best friends Rosie (played by Carly Sakolove) and Tanya (played by Jalynn Steele) had superb comedic timing as they tried to cheer Donna up in “Chiquitita.” The way they ran to the door to peek out at the men in the courtyard and then jumped away to hide laying flat on the ground and the bed was hilarious. The two actresses crisply jumped right into a striking pose singing “You can dance” as they started off the famous song “Dancing Queen.” Sakolove’s deep alto voice resonated as she sang “Take a Chance on Me” and playfully pursued a nervous Bill around the stage. Steele was energetic and seductive as she flirted with the younger men throughout the show and sang “Does Your Mother Know.”
The live band including keyboard, guitars, bass, and drums conducted by Matthew Croft rocked the overture and the entr’acte. The music was loud and booming creating a sense of attending a live rock concert. Choreography by Laast was captivating as the ensemble danced to “Voulez-Vous” and during Sophie’s nightmare in “Under Attack.”
The bright and exciting costumes created by costume designer Mark Thompson were a visual delight. Some of the standout costumes were those of the ensemble in the number “Under Attack.” The costumes glowed in the UV lights on the swimmers life vests, flowered swimming caps, and yellow and pink gloves which made the nightmare more vivid and disorienting. As a nod to the 1970’s costumes of ABBA, Donna and the Dynamos costumes during “Super Trouper” were tight white spandex with silver accents, wide bell bottoms, flowing sleeves, and a cape for Rosie complete with platform boots. The three later changed into vibrant red, yellow, and orange costumes with the same complementary design for Bill, Harry, and Sam in matching outfits and sang a concert style hit of “Waterloo.”
The simple set (created by Nancy Thun) consisted of two pieces of white Greek building facades with blue doors which rotated around creating different arrangements for scenes. The varying sizes and height of the fake buildings created dimension and a sense of a bigger resort and town. Lighting designed by Howard Harrison changed the mood throughout the show as the light shined on the white buildings in the town. A striking scene was set with lighting during the song “Mamma Mia” with red lighting on the buildings, a white spotlight and a deep blue background.
Overall, Broadway Across America has brought a sensational show of Mamma Mia! to the Eccles Theatre this week. The favorite rock songs, vivid costumes, and heart throbbing love story is a must-see production with an amazing cast. Do not let it “Slip through your fingers” this holiday season.