Breaking up is never easy, we know, but if “Mamma Mia” has to go, then Tuesday night at Seattle’s Paramount was definitely the way to do it. A full theater of screaming, crying, swaying and singing fans rocked out to all those iconic ABBA songs for what is supposedly the last time. Having closed on Broadway last season, the smash hit show is on a national farewell tour, with just one week in Seattle. And despite some weak links in the cast, you don’t want to miss this dancing queen of musicals.
First, the weak link, Lizzie Markson as the about-to-be-married Sophie just doesn’t cut it. Together with her pals Ali (too-nerdy Chloe Kounadis) and Lisa (self-conscious Niki Badua) she overacts like an awkward Nickolodeon teen, singing with an irritating nasal blare and never quite deciding whether Sophie is naïve or horny. Dustin Harris Smith (Sky) doesn’t help as a fiance who’s about as exciting as a stockbroker.
Fortunately, the show’s not written around Sophie, and she’s completely eclipsed by Betsy Padamonsky as a Donna who’s strong, sexy and fiercely protective all at once. True, Padamonsky looks rather too much like Meryl Streep, but her voice is so much richer and well trained that it’s a joy to hear her belt out “The Winner Takes it All” and “Money Money Money.” Together with Shai Yammanee as a sensitive Sam (with a lovely tenor and convincing Aussie accent), Padamonsky brings a real human depth to the plot.
The rest of the cast is just as good. Cashelle Butler as the snooty friend Tanya (those parody dance moves in “Does Your Mother Know?”!) and Sarah Smith as a bubbly, bouncy Rosie make the perfect comedic foil to Donna, as well as her vocal backups. Marc Cornes does a hilarious job as a safari-style Bill Austin, finally uniting with Rosie in a hilarious “Take a Chance on Me.” He also looks like a younger Benny Andersson — a nice touch. Andrew Tebo makes a good stab at channeling John Cleese for Donna’s third paramour Harry, though his English accent needs work.
The set — minimal, with cubist Greek rooftops and a big moon — is pretty, and the costumes alone are worth the ticket price (rare Italian silk for the space-age “Super Trouper,” black-lit vintage swimsuits for the rather strange dream scene). The band, under Kevin Casey, is tight and well balanced.
But what makes this “Mamma Mia” really sparkle is the sly chorus comedy, thanks to director Phyllida Lloyd and choreographer Anthony van Laast. Five faces appear around the door frame to spoof Donna’s seriousness in “Mamma Mia,” another nod to the ABBA original. As Sky and Sophie are getting it on in “Lay All Your Love on Me,” their guy friends sneak onstage in shortie wetsuits (yes) and hijack the moment with flipper cartwheels and kicklines.
There are small things to pick on: slightly overdone choreography, a stylized clipping of words, and odd accents that pervade all the songs. And a parental warning — the moves are much sexier than the movie, with quasi lap-dancing in “Man After Midnight” and a highly suggestive scene as Tanya tries to inflate her air mattress by sucking.
But if you loved ABBA, if you loved the original Broadway “Mamma Mia,” if you loved the movie or even if you are completely new to the whole shtick, you will find yourself rising as one with the crowd for the encores, singing and swaying and saying, “I do, I do, I do, I do, I do.”
Mamma Mia Farewell Tour
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday (March 31); 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. (ASL) and 6:30 p.m. (open caption) Sunday.
Where: Paramount Theater, 911 Pine St., Seattle.
Tickets: From $25.
Information: 800-745-3000, stgpresents.org.