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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 23, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 12
Mamma Mia!: How can we resist the classic jukebox musical?
Arts & Entertainment
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Mamma Mia!: How can we resist the classic jukebox musical?

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

Mamma Mia!
Paramount Theater
Through March 25


It's always been a theory that no one can be in a bad mood and listen to the music of ABBA. The music is infectious, light bubble gum, but most of all it's fun. That's probably why Mamma Mia! has not only been one of the first major 'jukebox musicals,' but also arguably the most famous. Starting in London in 1999, the show has swept around the world and been welcomed with tambourines and feather boas. The Paramount Theater/STG brings the latest traveling company of Mamma Mia! to Seattle, and more than 10 years since its debut, it's still just as fun.

The story is simple. A single parent raises her daughter on a Greek island where they run a guesthouse. Wanting a traditional wedding, the daughter, Sophie, desires her father to walk her down the aisle. The only problem is she doesn't know who her father is, and according to her found mother's diary, there are three possibilities. Without explaining her actions to anyone except her two best friends, Sophie secretly invites all three men to visit with the hopes of being able to identify her father once they meet. All three attend leaving Sophie feeling (as the song says) 'Under attack - I'm taking cover. They're on my track, three dads, one lover.'

The show is all about threes: Sophie and her two best friends, Skye (the groom) and the two helpers around the guest house, Donna and her two dynamos, and the three potential fathers - all these groups add to the show. Sophie (Chloe Tucker) is the bride-to-be. Tucker's voice is strong but she approaches each song with hesitation and it's not until the second line of the song that her voice's strength and power come through. The groom Sky (Happy Mahaney) plays the role well. His voice is strong and adds to Sophie's stage presence. His name is earned and his character is believable and charming. The bride's mother Donna (Kaye Tuckerman) does a great job showing angst and edgy anticipation of her daughter's wedding. Tuckerman takes control of the lead and uses it to her advantage. Her voice is strong - especially in her song 'The Winner Takes it All,' her acting is spot-on, and her persona works perfectly in the musical. Donna's group-mates Rosie and Tanya (Mary Callanan and Alison Ewing) do the job that they are meant to as sidekick characters without stealing focus. Callanan adds wonderful comedy and charm when she sings 'Take A Chance on Me,' without being over the top. Ewing has a powerful voice that rings clear and loud during her solo, 'Does Your Mother Know?' The three potential fathers (Paul Deboy, John-Michael Zuerlein, Christian Whelan) all do good jobs as the men coming back to the island unaware of their hostess's true intentions. The three men show their different personalities and different reactions to the knowledge of having a potential daughter getting married. Each of the men has a solo or duet with Donna ('Thank You for the Music,' 'The Name of the Game,' 'Knowing Me, Knowing You') and each allow their voices to harmonize without dominating.

The ensemble of the show definitely deserves mention. They work as a Greek chorus (pun intended). The harmonizing is spot on and their simple actions add to the individual songs. When they become part of the show, as with the bigger scenes or dance numbers, the ensemble works together and explodes with energy. Not a single one even attempted to steal focus and all of them add to the show, defining the role of a supporting cast.

The music is not original for this musical, as it was originally written for the 1970s smash hit group ABBA by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, who were on board with writing the musical from its very start. After having Catherine Johnson write a fictional storyline, the team incorporated the well-known songs into the plot and the musical exploded. Starting with the hit 'The Winner Takes it All,' the team went on to use 'Super Trouper,' 'Lay All Your Love on Me,' 'Thank You for the Music,' 'Dancing Queen,' and, of course, the title song, 'Mamma Mia.'

Since the show's debut in London 1999, the musical has gone around the world with great success. Following its Broadway opening in October 2001 (where it is still currently running), the musical was nominated for five Tony Awards. While winning none of them, it has gained the prestigious honor of being the 10th longest-running Broadway show in history. A film version (starring Meryl Streep, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Amanda Seyfried) was released in 2008 to great acclaim, becoming the United States' third highest-grossing musical film.

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