Set on a Greek island paradise where the sun shines bright, Victoria College Drama Society presents a warm tale of love, friendship and self-discovery told through the ever-classic hits of ABBA.
VCDS’s latest production attempts to evoke feelings of nostalgia with the various ABBA compositions. The beach set and warm message may seem strange in the cold harsh winter weather, but it provides audiences with a respite, even if it’s only for a couple of hours. In particular, the cast wearing flip-flops and beach shorts jovially dancing across the stage is a cozy and comforting sight. Mamma Mia! is the sort of play you shouldn’t pay very close attention to, because then you will question why it takes place on a Greek island where nearly everyone is American. Rather, overlook the plot inconsistencies and enjoy its over-the-top acting along with the cast that don’t take themselves too seriously.
Mamma Mia! introduces viewers to 20-year-old Sophie (Renae Wolfesberger) one month before her wedding day. She was brought up by her single mother Donna (Lisean Henry), who never told her who her father was. As luck would have it, Sophie stumbles upon her mother’s old diary and manages to deduce the names of three potential fathers—Sam (Gianni Sallese), Bill (Kody McCann) and Harry (Leo Morgenstern) whom she invites to the wedding in an attempt to find her true patronage. She soon realizes the task is a lot harder than she imagined, while Donna is forced to confront her buried but not forgotten past life. Hilarity ensues when it becomes clear that no one knows who the real father is and unresolved past flings present Donna with new problems on the eve of her daughter’s wedding.
The whole cast puts in a noteworthy performance as they belt out ABBA hits which is no easy task. Donna’s two best friends played by Alexandra Palma and Elizabeth So are especially memorable and provide tongue in cheek entertainment in every scene. The show highlights the joy that can be found in love, family and friends. The plot, which is dramatic to the “point of excess,” thrives under a production which isn’t afraid to be foolish. Perhaps, some aspects of the play are dated: Donna’s storyline is basically “I don’t need a man!” only to later change her ideals and get married.
In the director’s notes, Ronan Mallovy says, “I’ve been asked a few times what my directorial vision is and to be honest it’s been difficult to come up with the type of answer most people are looking for. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with an incredible cast and crew who, on top of being talented, have been outspoken with their own ideas for what the show can be. My job for the most part has been a glorified coffee filter—to distill those ideas into a unified product.”
More than anything, the atmosphere created is the main feature of the show. I would describe Mamma Mia! as a play defined by its music. More so than other musicals because its music is so popular. It doesn’t matter how old you are, ABBA manages to pull you back into the 90’s euphoria. For me, it reminded me of my own middle school ABBA inspired production. I saw those seated in front of me, swaying their hands and singing along when “Super Trouper” and “Voulez-Vous” were performed. The show offers you plenty opportunities to engage and enjoy the heartfelt emotions. The curtain call lasts for three entire songs and audiences are encouraged to join in.
Mamma Mia! ran at the Isabel Bader Theatre from March 7th-9th and included a pre-show talk about the relationship between music and text portrayed on the stage.