Dance

Review: Drury Lane’s Mamma Mia Knocks It Out of the Park

What can I say about Mamma Mia that hasn’t already been said? It’s an international phenomenon, with a Broadway run that spanned 14 years, has been adapted into two movies, with all three versions being smash hits. Now Drury Lane Theatre is giving a go at this worldwide hit, directed by William Osetek, and I’ve gotta say, they’ve knocked it out of the park.

Mamma Mia, which begins on a small Greek island, tells the story of Sophie (Rebecca Hurd), a carefree 20-year-old girl who is about to get married to the love of her life, Sky (Liam Quealy). Like any girl, she wants her father to walk her down the aisle, but she never knew her dad. However, while rummaging through her mother’s old things, she finds her mom’s old diary, which just happens to detail three intimate encounters her mother had, all within a few days, and about nine months before Sophie was born. Sophie then has the amazing idea to invite her three potential fathers—Sam, Bill, and Harry—under the pretext that she wanted some of her mother’s old friends to be there at her wedding. What follows is a story of love, forgiveness, and a ton of ABBA.

Left to right: Jeff Parker, Susie McMonagle. Photo by Brett Beiner

Drury Lane’s production of Mamma Mia is really great, and if you’ve seen a previous version—be it movie, musical, or both—then you’ll love this. Everyone in the main cast has some serious acting chops, and even more impressive vocal abilities. I was kind of surprised at the strength of all the vocalists. If had to pick a true standout though, it would have to be Susie McMonagle. She really sells herself as a woman trying to distance herself from her crazy past and try to raise a daughter all by herself while also running a business. Her singing was top notch, with her performances some of my favorite, especially the musical’s namesake song, “Mamma Mia”.

Speaking of music, Mamma Mia is chock full of ABBA hits, and if you’re a lover of ABBA you’ll feel right at home. Some of the tracks include the aforementioned “Mamma Mia,” “Money, Money, Money” and “Dancing Queen,” and that’s only three out of the 22 tracks in this musical, and they are all done wonderfully.  I previously mentioned how vocally talented the cast is, but I can’t go on without mentioning the band, led by Christopher Sargent; they did an amazing job bringing ABBA’s hits to life. Mamma Mia is a lengthy production, coming in at 2 hours plus the 15-minute intermission, but the constant music means you’ll be engaged. Music and lyrics are by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus with some songs by Stig Anderson.

Left to right: McKinley Carter, Susie McMonagle, Elizabeth Ledo. Photo by Brett Beiner

A musical would be nothing without dance numbers, and Mamma Mia has them in spades, and they’re a sight to behold. Drury Lane has a large stage, and even then the actors use the entire stage. This is helped immensely by the large ensemble cast, who really breath life into the musical, filling out the stage during both musical numbers and more quiet moments where they serve to keep the background from being static. Many of them are really physical in their performance, with one number having Donna carried around the entire stage as the rest of the cast looks on.

The set (by Jeffrey D. Kmiec) was a high point for me as well. The musical is set on a small Greek island, and the set constructed of ship parts, as well as the static background screen with boats sailing the ocean, really sell you that it’s the Mediterranean. Costumes are by Lynda Myers, Nicole Boyland and Marianne Custer.

Left to right: Michael Accardo, Stef Tovar, Jeff Parker. Photo by Brett Beiner

All in all, Drury Lane Theater’s Production of Mamma Mia is one for the ages. Incredible performances from the cast and band alike bring the songs to life, and the huge stage and amazing set make it feel larger than life. If you’re a fan of ABBA, musicals, and stories about young-and old-love, then I would highly recommend Mamma Mia.

Mamma Mia continues at Drury Lane Theatre in Oak Brook through April 14. Tickets are $55-$70.

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