A fantasy (to help me through reality)
Sacramento Community Center Theater1301 L St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
Watching Mamma Mia! Tuesday night at the Community Center Theater reminded me of hanging out with my Swedish cousin in-law: It was pleasant and summery, dialogue tended to be progressive, and of course, there was ABBA.
Actually, no. My cousin doesn’t listen to the aforementioned pop supergroup from his homeland, and neither do I. But hearing ABBA songs played live by a band, sung by professional musical theater actors and then interspersed into a twisting plot with fun characters and colorful costumes—well, it made the bland stuff palatable. Hell, it even made the stuff fun.
Sure, the majority of the packed house at the Community Center Theater for opening night was—predictably—a middle-aged (and over) crowd. But they ate up ABBA songs like crack fiends, revitalized by an energetic touring cast which had them singing and dancing in their seats.
Mamma Mia! tells the story of a young girl named Sophie (played by Chloe Tucker), who is trying to find out the identity of her father before she gets married. Adding to her troubles is the fact that her mother Donna (Kaye Tuckerman) had flings with three different guys 20 years ago, around the time of her conception. If you haven’t seen the movie version starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, do yourself a favor and refrain. Let’s just say plot complications arise, all leading to an enjoyable twist ending. And somehow, the two guys from ABBA worked their songs into the production, which debuted in London in 1999.
This touring production, brought to you by Broadway Sacramento, is much better than the film version. Tucker plays Sophie wonderfully, especially considering she’s been thrust into a major role right out of music school. That’s perhaps why her voice is so dynamic—strong during fast numbers, and even better during ballads such as “I Have a Dream.” Tuckerman performs a superb Donna, leading a feisty cast of women, who basically carry the entire show. For such a potentially sad plot, there’s sure a lot of comedy. It stems from the script, via sexual innuendo, but humor comes also from hilariously choreographed dance sequences featuring neon unitards, dry humping and cross-dressing, among other gags.
After the plot concluded, the cast donned disco-era unitards and reconvened for a few song-and-dance routines for the (at that point) feverish ABBA-loving audience. Hours after the show, I still have an ABBA hangover. Catchy and upbeat pop songs, such as “Super Trouper” and “Dancing Queen,” seem permanently baked into my brain. And there’s not much I can do about it.
If only someone made a jukebox musical out of some better quality pop music, like Queen or Tupac. Now that, I’d go see in a heartbeat. But until then, I’d recommend seeing this production of Mamma Mia! It’s a highly entertaining escape from reality.