It’s hard to believe that the 1999 jukebox musical, Mamma Mia!, based on and including many of ABBA’s hit songs, is turning 20. In fact, it’s the same age as young Sophie (Mary Mattison), one of the central characters on which this show, onstage now through NC Theatre at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium and directed by Eric Woodall, revolves.
Sophie, who is introduced to the audience right away, is busy planning her wedding…and sending letters to three men she suspects might be her father. Her plan, conspired after reading her mother, Donna’s (Lauren Kennedy), old diaries, is to invite all these might-be-dads to the island where she lives and then to get the right one to walk her down the aisle.
Despite her somewhat devious plan, Sophie is instantly a likeable character, made even more so by Mattison’s bubbly, energetic portrayal. After the antics of Sophie and her diverse cast of friends/bridesmaids are revealed, the audience has a moment to take in J. Branson’s breathtaking set design.
His set is a beautiful, rustic one which perfectly encompasses that “island life” vibe. It has a natural feel and features nice touches of blue, which are further complemented by costumer LeGrande Smith’s choice to clothe the characters in tropical island colors. Turquoises, blues, and greens, onstage and on the actors, work together to effectively evoke a beachy theme, as well as a feel-good theme. And, that’s just perfect since feeling good is what this musical is all about…at least on the surface.
In line with the theme, Monica Kapoor’s great, sometimes-spastic (but in a fun way) choreography adds to the overall feel. And, while her choreography proves fun and funky throughout, some of its best moments come in the elaborate “Money, Money, Money” number. Another fun and well-choreographed number is the much-loved “Dancing Queen.”
In this number, performed by Donna and her best buddies, sexy Tanya (Stephanie Pope) and feisty, hilarious Rosie (Lulu Picart), the theme and feel of girl-power is thoroughly evident. This number proves that the show is all about girls having a great time, defying society and its standards about what it means to be a woman, and just generally having a blast.
And, speaking of defying standards, this production does a great job of that. Its cast is wonderfully diverse, in terms of both race and body type, allowing it to be more truly feel-good than lot of other productions and setting a high bar for future theatrical productions to meet.
With that said, however, the production is still sexy and is not afraid to pose men as eye candy. Erick Patrick’s Sky, Sophe’s intended, spends a lot of time flexing his abs in a tiny bathing suit. And, while this is certainly enjoyable, it obviously points to the subversiveness this production glorifies, and rightfully so.
And, while there are some underlying themes at play here, anyone who wants to just sit back and have a good time can certainly do so. It’s just important to point out that, via a close inspection, the production can offer more than that if the viewer wishes to see it.
Seriousness aside, however, there is some major fun going on here. Kennedy and Mattison are adorable and a thousand percent believable as a mother-daughter duo. Both have powerhouse voices and what appears to be a strong and breathing emotional connection, one that is particularly well-evidenced in their performance of “Slipping Through My Fingers.” In fact, their chemistry is rivaled only by Donna’s affinity with Sam, a father-contender portrayed by Charlie Brady, Kennedy’s real-life husband.
Perfectly-acted and perfectly capable of giving every viewer exactly what he or she came looking for, NC Theatre’s Mamma Mia! is a sure smash hit, a crowd-pleaser with much going on beneath the surface.
The North Carolina Theatre presents MAMMA MIA!, starring Lauren Kennedy as Donna, at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14 and 15 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16 and 17 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $25 and up, plus taxes and fees. Click here for details about $25 college-student tickets.
NCT Box Office: 919-831-6941, ext. 6944, or http://www.nctheatre.com/tickets/season-tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/369155/2492448.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-831-6941, ext. 6949; email@example.com; or http://nctheatre.com/groups.
SHOW: https://nctheatre.com/shows/mamma-mia, https://www.facebook.com/events/919374378249674/, and https://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/events/mamma-mia-north-carolina-theatre.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C–xeqpBA-0.
2018-19 SEASON: https://nctheatre.com/show-season/201819-season.
NCT NEWS RELEASES: https://nctheatre.com/blog/nc-theatre-announces-cast-mamma-mia and https://nctheatre.com/blog/nc-natives-lauren-kennedy-and-eric-woodall-bring-mamma-mia-nc-theatre.
PRESENTER: http://www.nctheatre.com/, https://www.facebook.com/nctheatre, https://twitter.com/nctheatre, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Carolina_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/nctheatre.
NCT BLOG (Stage Notes): http://www.nctheatre.com/stage-notes.
VENUE: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/venue/memorial-auditorium. DIRECTIONS: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/directions.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16th, performance; and NCT will offer sign-language interpretation at the show’s 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17th, performance. For details, telephone 919-831-6941 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABBA (Swedish pop group, 1972-82): http://www.abbasite.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABBA (Wikipedia).
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).
Eric Woodall (director and NCT producing artistic director): http://www.ericwoodall.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/eric-woodall-90124 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0940106/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://www.facebook.com/eric.woodall.98 (Facebook page).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.triangleartsreview.com/, http://www.susiepotter.com, and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.