I never thought I’d say this about anything, let alone a musical in which Abba songs figure prominently, but “Mamma Mia!”, now playing at the Paramount Aurora, needs more disco.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s a really fun show with a solid cast and a beat you can dance to, but the dancing was the weakest link. The choreography didn’t feel quite as polished as the rest of the production, and was more hip-hop modern than ’70s appeal. Still, “Mamma Mia!” had audience members on their feet grooving and clapping to a medley of Abba favorites at the end.
By now, most people know the story of “Mamma Mia!” – a young woman, on the verge of getting married, wants to know who her father is. Sophie has discovered, in her mother’s diary, mentions of three men who all might fit the bill. She invites them to her big day, hoping she’ll know who her father is when she sees him. Her mother Donna, a free-spirited single mom who once fronted a ’70s girl group but now runs a resort on a Greek island, is thrown into a tizzy by the appearance of three once-important men in her life. Among the cast of characters are two old friends of Donna, Tanya and Rosie, who help her relive her singing days, and the younger generation of young party people.
I first saw “Mamma Mia!” many years ago, during its first run in Chicago. I always thought some of the songs seemed shoehorned in, but of course, I enjoyed it regardless because it was Abba. I also thought the plot was something you might see on the Lifetime movie channel, and wasn’t at all interested. To be honest, I don’t remember a whole lot from that production, even though I remember enjoying it at the time. This time around, though, I’m more than a decade older, and since I relate more to Donna (Amy Montgomery) and her pals than Sophie (Kirsten Frumkin) right now, the story felt more meaningful and interesting to me.
mammamia1Plus, I thought Tanya (played by Jennifer Knox) and Rosie (SaraSevigny) were two of the best
things about the show. Their numbers, “Does Your Mother Know?” with Tanya being courted by a much younger man, and “Take A Chance on Me,” in which Rosie appeals to Bill Austin, were sassy and sweet and in-character.
The singing was skillful and evocative, costumes were excellent, and the set was a giant screen that changed to portray different suitable sky and water scenes, along with a rotating platform that could evoke different locations within the island setting. Ultimately, I’d say the production was just fun. If you’re in the western suburbs and want a more laid-back theater experience, this show delivers!
I’ve never been to the Paramount Aurora before, so I mainly took in this show to check it out. It’s a lovely Art Deco theater in a downtown area that could be more vibrant, but has plenty of parking and a casino nearby. In addition to the annual Broadway series, the Paramount Aurora hosts classic movie Mondays every week, along with other performances.
“Mamma Mia” will be showing Wednesdays-Sundays through 10/30; tickets start at $44. For more information, visit paramountaurora.com or call 630-896-6666.