The musical “Mamma Mia,” based on the music of ABBA with music and lyrics by former ABBA band members Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, has enjoyed phenomenal success since opening in London in 1999.
On this side of the pond, it is the ninth longest-running show in Broadway history, and judging from the opening night audience response at Tacoma Musical Playhouse, it still has an almost rabid fan base.
It is a feel-good romantic comedy with a simple but delightful plot filled with disco music of the type that gets your mind dancing and won’t let go — songs like the title song and “Money, Money, Money,” “Dancing Queen,” “Take a Chance on Me.”
Growing up on a Greek island where her mother runs a tavern, Sophie (Maggie Barry) has never known who her father was. As her wedding to Sky (Donovan Mahannah) approaches, she sneaks a peek into her mother’s old diary and discovers that mom had three affairs in a short period of time 21 years ago, and any one of the three could be her father.
So, unbeknownst to her mother, she invites all the possible fathers to the wedding. They are Harry (Gary Chambers), a banker; Bill (Sam Barker), an adventurer; and Sam (Scott Polovitch-Davis), an architect.
The spirit of the play is made evident from the moment audience members walk into the theater — from drinks called “dot dot dot” and “Voulez-Vous” served at the concession stand to the disco ball that casts swirling lights all over the auditorium walls and ceiling. The drink names refer to, respectively, something in Sophie’s mother’s diary and the song that ends the first act, both of which refer to the act that generated Sophie’s dilemma.
Sophie’s mother, Donna (Linda Palacios), is the former lead singer in the girl group Donna and the Dynamos. Now, two decades after the band quit playing, she’s still got it. The Dynamos get back together and revise some of their old hits starting with “Honey Honey” and prove they can still rock out.
Palacios has a terrific voice, as does Barry. All the music is good, but the musical standout is not a disco number, but a more serious song called “S.O.S.” belted out by Polovitch-Davis, who in many ways — acting and singing — is the performer who keeps “Mamma Mia” from being too much fluff.
In addition to the dance music and the lighthearted humor, what this play has going for it is exceptional production values, from costumes by Janet English to Jon Douglas Rake’s direction and choreography to delightful ensemble song-and-dance numbers to John Chenault’s lighting to the marvelous island villa created by set designer Blake R. York and scenic technician Bruce Haasl.
When: Through Aug. 4, 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, with extra performances added 6:30 p.m. July 28 and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 1.
Where: Tacoma Musical Playhouse at The Narrows Theatre, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma.
Tickets: $31 adults; $29 senior, military, students; $22 children 12 and younger; $27 for groups of 10 or more.
Information: 253.565.6867, http://www.tmp.org.