Circa’s ‘Mamma Mia’ Is ABBAsolutely Fabulous
What a brilliant programming decision by Denny Hitchcock and the Circa ’21 brass to bring in “Mamma Mia” at this point, right before the sequel is about to hit theaters and just as summer is reaching its peak, because “Mamma Mia” is an absolutely perfect summer show. It’s fun, it’s light, it’s fizzy and it’s goofily colorful.
Based on and buttressed by a succession of songs by the Swedish supergroup ABBA, “Mamma Mia” tells the story of Sophie (Courtney Groves), a 20-year-old on the cusp of getting married, with one usual request couched in an unusual predicament – she wants to have her father walk her down the aisle, but she isn’t sure who her father is. After finding her mother, Donna’s (Jennifer Poarch) diary, she’s narrowed it down to three potential former paramours, and so she sends wedding invitations to all three, hoping to be able to suss out the sperm donor who has never been a part of her life up to this point.
When you look at this on paper, it’s really a strange concept to carry a fun, poppy musical, but it works, in a bizarrely madcap way, the same way the plot stretches to accommodate the songs (some of which take a little taffy pulling and dual meaning on the lyrics) work despite the strain.
The three men arrive, and of course each of them has a distinct personality – there’s the stuffy one who used to be a rock star, Harry (Jeff March), the dashing adventurer who’s now a writer, Bill (Tom Walljasper) and the least colorful of the three, the upstanding Sam (Kenton Fridley) who – spoiler alert for anyone who has never seen a romantic comedy! – ends up being the male romantic lead.
Along with these three are their ostensible distaff pairings, the friends of Donna, Rosie (Illy Kirvin) and Tanya (Erin Churchill), the three of whom once made up a singing trio in the disco era.
Thrown into the mix are the flirty native boys and girls and Sophie’s fiancée, Sky (Andrew Wright), but the primary plot driver is ostensibly the search for Sophie’s father, but it’s really the journey for he and Donna to reunite to give Sophie the family she’s been wishing for, consciously and subconsciously, which is probably why she’s engaged at 20.
But really, quite frankly, who cares about the plot? It’s pretty superfluous. We’re here to hear the songs, see the costumes and laugh at the goofy jokes and broad characters, and “Mamma Mia” delivers on all of those. I, and the rest of the audience that gave it a standing ovation, really enjoyed it.
The cast gives off a feeling of fun and fluff, especially Kirven and Walljasper, the broad, comic relief characters who bring the most laughs. The songs, as always, are a joy to hear, and the cast does a fine job presenting them in all their perfect pop splendor.
“Mamma Mia” is a wonderful show. It’s a perfect theater cocktail for the summer – not too heavy, full of fun and love and upbeat music and vibrant color, gorgeous sets and bubbly laughs. If you’re anything of a fan of the music or looking for a breezy musical treat, I highly recommend it.