Reviewed by Katherine Damisch
Mamma Mia! flounces onto the Marriott stage with two and a half hours of giddy fun, unabashedly embracing all of the slightly corny nostalgia that is its ABBA score. The plot is familiar to most musical theatre fans: 20-year-old Sophie, who is about to get married, has three possible candidates as to who her father might be. Without her mother’s knowledge, she invites all three of them to her wedding, and hilarity ensues.
In many ways, this piece is a celebration of womanhood, women of all ages, and female friendship. Sophie’s friends travel to the island to celebrate her wedding. Donna’s friends (and former bandmates) help her navigate the stress of the ghosts of old flings rising from the grave, not to mention executing a wedding for her only child. In the end, Sophie must decide for herself the direction in which she would like her live to go, and Donna must come to terms with her little girl growing into her own woman. In addition to all that, Mamma Mia! offers three sizeable roles with real, distinctive personalities for older women, a feat that is far too uncommon in popular culture. (Meghan Murphy as Tanya is a dynamo stand-out of this production!) Marriott could have taken that premise all the way by casting Donna older than Danni Smith, although Smith acts and sings the part with a beautiful, yet slightly sad grace.
The Marriott’s in-the-round staging presents a challenge for dynamic set design. Anything too bulky can block the view for a large portion of the audience. Scott Davis’s solutions to turn the space into a romantic Greek Island getaway is nothing short of ingenious. A shallow, glimmering moat surrounds the perimeter of the stage, with little drawbridges at the corners so actors can enter and exit. The flats that cover the corridors where actors can get from one side of the house to the other transformed into the white facades of homes a la Mykonos, complete with blue window shutters that the actors actually got to use. Details such as those, along with hyper-energetic performances and a sugary-sweet score, made Marriott's Mamma Mia! a mini getaway of its own.