The touring cast of Mamma Mia!, photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia
Music & lyrics by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus
Book by Catherine Johnson
Directed by Phylidda Lloyd
Review by Brian Kennedy
Entire contents copyright © 2017 by Brian Kennedy. All rights reserved
Thanks to the comedic timing and moving performances of three actors, the ABBA musical Mamma Mia!, now playing at Kentucky Center, features enough to keep audiences entertained, whether they are into ABBA, or not.
The musical features Sophie (Lizzie Clarkson), a 20-year-old wanting her dad to walk her down the aisle at her upcoming wedding. The problem is she has never met her father. After reading her mother’s diary, Sophie realizes it could be one of three people and sends all three a wedding invitation. How she knew where to send the invitations is unknown, but just suspend disbelief for this one. All three show up to the Greek island where Sophie lives, and chaos ensues.
For the first few scenes, it was difficult to get into the show due to the varying energy levels. When Sophie greets her friends Ali (Chloe Kounadis) and Lisa (Niki Badua), it’s way too caffeinated. On the other hand, the possible fathers Harry, Bill, and Sam (Andrew Tebo, Marc Cornes, and Shai Yammanee, respectively) lacked energy in their opening moments and were mostly monotone in the delivery of their lines.
When Sophie’s mother Donna (Betsy Padamonsky) enters the stage and sees the three “fathers”, her hilarious horrified reaction and subsequent performance of the title song gets the show rolling in the right direction. However, the piano overshadowed her singing, which was a constant problem for every actor during the show. It was hard to tell if this was due to projection or mic issues.
The show really gets going when Donna’s friends Tanya (Cashelle Butler), and Rosie (Sarah Smith), who are on the island for the wedding as well, try to determine where they will sleep. There are no words spoken during this scene, only movements, hand gestures, and a game of heads or tails. The two displayed excellent chemistry and comedic timing.
Later, when Donna becomes over seeing her past come into the present, Tanya and Rosie are wonderful when they console her during “Chiquitita”, dancing around, singing very well, and even throwing in some business with bull horns. Donna acts as the perfect straight person to Tanya and Rosie’s comedy team during this performance.
Finally, Tanya and Rosie are able to get Donna out of her funk. That leads into all three of them doing a raucous, antic-filled, laugh-out-loud version of “Dancing Queen,” an overplayed song that becomes quite bearable when these three perform it.
Throughout the rest of the show, the cast seems to feed off this energy and delivers more impassioned performances. The chemistry between Bill and Rosie, particularly, is evident, and it’s fun to watch them during the second act. Donna and Sam’s performance of “S.O.S.” is heartfelt and tender.
Donna, by the way, gets the show’s lone goose bump-inducing moments during her poignant, emotional performances of “Slipping Through My Fingers” and “The Winner Takes it All.”
Mamma Mia! plays at Kentucky Center through this Sunday, July 23. Provided the energy is right the whole way through, this could be a fun and moving show for those in attendance. It is being billed as The Farewell Tour, so it may not be around again for some time.
July 20 – 23, 2017
PNC Broadway In Louisville
Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40204
Brian Kennedy is a nearly life-long Louisville resident who has performed in plays since 2004. He also wrote extensively about the Louisville theatre scene for Louisville.com and Examiner.com from 2009-2015. Currently, he maintains the theatre blog LouBriantheater. When not involved in the theatre scene, he is an avid runner, participating in 5Ks throughout the state and in southern Indiana.