Mamma Mia!, running May 5-7 at the Durham Performing Arts Center, might just be the antidote for the poison of our currently reality. Its earwig ABBA songbook harkens back to a time when ridiculous hair and neon orange were just harmless fashion trends; and if love wasn’t exactly free, it was still very reasonable.
The show opens on 20-year-old Sophia Sheridan, played by Lizzie Markson, pining wistfully in front of a the idyllic Greek taverna where she was born and raised. She sings about having a dream and finding out who she is, then furtively mails three letters.
Three months later, her two best girlfriends arrive for her wedding the next day. Sophie spills her big secret and tells them how she read her mother’s diary looking for evidence of her paternity, so she could invite her father to her wedding. She reads, “We talked, we kissed, and…” “And what?” her rapt friends ask. “Dot, dot, dot! That’s how old people used to say it!”
Through this detective work ,Sophie discovers her mother “dot, dot, dot’s” a Lot in July and August of 1979; and there are actually three Dad contenders: Sam Carmichael (Shai Yammanee), the architect who broke her mother’s heart when he left her to marry the woman to whom he was already engaged; Bill Austin (Mark Cornes), the travel writer afraid of being in one place too long; and Harry Bright (Andrew Tebo), the guitar-playing headbanger-turned-stodgy-investment-banker. Unbeknownst to her mother Donna, played by the very appealing Betsy Padamonsky, Sophie has invited all of her father candidates to the wedding, with the certain belief that she be able to identify her bio dad as soon as she sees him.
There is nothing like hanging out with your old friends who knew you when. Except maybe for this show which is very much like hanging out with your old friends who knew you when.
Cashelle Butler as Tanya sings my favorite number, “Does Your Mamma Know (That You’re Out),” which should become the anthem of cougars everywhere. Anthony Van Laast’s choreography is impressive, and the skill of the young dancers in this show will leave you smiling from ear to ear. (It doesn’t hurt that the young male dancers perform without shirts, and they are so healthy-looking that you forget you ever even heard of a preexisting condition. “Does your mamma know that you’re out….” )
Sarah Smith’s Rosie shines in her number, “Take a Chance on Me,” as the single girl trying to get Dad Candidate #2, Bill Austin (played by Mark Cornes), to settle down and let love happen. I’m not crazy about the trope of a woman having to convince a scared and reluctant man (who actually is running away for most of the song) to settle down and be with her; but Smith and Cornes play the physical comedy well, and Smith crushes the song (in a good way) with her powerful, resonant voice.
I don’t want to tell you the whole story, but Mamma Mia! is about friendship, lovers, second chances, and the bond between Mothers and Daughters. It is a dance-in-your-seat good time with a happy ending. Sunday evening’s performance is the last show at DPAC, so catch it if you can and wash away the real world for a few hours. Take your Mamma, take a girl you know named Mia, but go. You won’t be sorry.
SECOND OPINION: May 6th Durham, NC Herald-Sun review by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/news/local/counties/durham-county/article149035249.html; May 5th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts and Entertainment preview by Susie Potter: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/05/mamma-mia-hits-the-dpac-stage-on-friday-may-5th/; May 3rd Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/mamma-mia/Event?oid=6074421; and April 25th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/entertainment/article146738304.html. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the May 5th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/05/here-we-go-again-the-mamma-mia-farewell-tour-will-play-five-shows-at-dpac-on-may-5-7/.)
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents MAMMA MIA! at 8 p.m. May 6 and 1 and 6:30 p.m. May 7 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $35-$125. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1120969.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://mammamiaontour.com/mm/mamma-mia-media.asp.
TOUR CAST & CREATIVE TEAM: http://mammamiaontour.com/mm/mamma-mia-cast-creative.asp.
Mamma Mia! (1999 West End and 2001 Broadway musical): http://www.mamma-mia.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/mamma-mia-10610 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.facebook.com/MammaMiaMusical (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/MammaMiaMusical (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mamma_Mia! (Wikipedia).
Study Guide: http://broadwayeducators.com/mamma-mia/ (Broadway Educators.com).
Mamma Mia! (2008 film): http://www.universalstudiosentertainment.com/mamma-mia-the-movie/ (official website), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0795421/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mamma_Mia!_%28film%29 (Wikipedia).
Björn Ulvaeus (music and lyrics): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/bjrn-ulvaeus-12514 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0880744/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bj%C3%B6rn_Ulvaeus (Wikipedia).
Benny Andersson (music and lyrics): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/benny-andersson-11314 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0027630/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benny_Andersson (Wikipedia).
Stig Anderson (lyrics): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/stig-anderson-90544 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0027832/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stig_Anderson (Wikipedia).
Catherine Johnson (book): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/catherine-johnson-84809 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0424735/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_Johnson (Wikipedia).
Work Light Productions, LLC (tour producer): http://www.worklightproductions.com/ (official website).
Nicole Noel is a former U.S. Army journalist-turned-Technical Knowledge Manager, with a love for the arts. At age seven, she wrote her first story on the wall of her basement after being told the family might have to move: “There once was a girl named Nicole who had a dog named Rat and they lived in this house.” She liked the way that you could capture a moment in a sentence, and still does. These days Nicole lives with her daughter, and a dog named Buffy, in a house in Fuquay-Varina. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.