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Does Your Mother Know? Stage West Mamma Mia - Review

Mamma Mia Review by Kim Cheel

Music & Lyrics by Björn Ulvaeus & Benny Andersson

Book by Catherine Johnson

I love ABBA. I'm probably not even in the minority. I've seen Mamma Mia performed in Toronto (2000), Calgary (2007) previous to watching it at Stage West. I went to the cinema in 2008 by myself to watch the film version (poor Pierce Brosnan - the entire audience laughed when he sang; except for one person behind me who protested, "come on, he's doing his best"). On my iPod, I have the London score, the film soundtrack, and of course the source material: ABBA. I can't presume I'm an ABBA expert, but I think I'm a fan!  So let's break it down. First, the set was so functional. I always admire Stage West's sets and how they can easily change from outdoor to indoor with zero fuss. It looked like the quintessential Greek B&B, complete with an umbrella-covered bar for beach bunnies.  Fans of the movie will hear songs in this production that didn't make the final cut with Meryl Streep. But that's okay - there's always more ABBA to love! Speaking of the songs, Chiquitita, song by Donna, Rosie, and Tanya was such a funny, but ultimately sweet tribute to lasting friendship - it always makes me tear up. The anthem, Dancing Queen quickly followed, and I'm not going to lie, I wish it was a bit more anthemic, more robust, especially to signify Donna pulling up her bootstraps after a brief fall into self-pity. It wasn't until Does Your Mother Know in the second act that I truly found the energy to fill the room to the rafters - as it is clear the actors had a lot of fun with that song - and you know what? So did the audience. The most tender scene of the night goes to Donna and Harry (performed by Jane Cook and J. Sean Elliott) with their number, Our Last Summer. It was a scene with no ulterior motives, no romantic desire, or hidden heartbreak. It was a moment of sweet nostalgia between friends who had been young once and were now older together. I felt the two of them had the strongest connection - even if it was just for one, beautiful song. Cook, as Donna delivers number after number of emotion played through song. Mere moments after sending her daughter Sophie off toward the altar with the sweet Slipping Through My Fingers, she's having a final emotional showdown with Sam in The Winner Takes It All. Astounding talent in Cook.  Whether you know the story, or you've managed to avoid it till now, Mamma Mia will have you smiling and trying to stop yourself from singing along. Make sure you check it out; it's on at Stage West till February 9th.

Synopsis: ABBA’s hits tell the hilarious story of a young woman’s search for her birth father. This sunny and funny tale unfolds on a Greek island paradise. On the eve of her wedding, a daughter’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother’s past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago. The story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs propels this enchanting tale of love, laughter and friendship, creating an unforgettable show. Non-stop laughs and explosive dance numbers combine to make “Mamma Mia!” a smash hit! A mother, daughter, three possible dads, and a trip down the aisle you’ll never forget! All set to the gold records of ABBA, including “Money, Money, Money”, “Dancing Queen”, “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme”, “SOS”, “The Winner Takes it All”, “Take a Chance On Me”, “Super Trouper”, and so many more!

Show runs until February 9th.

Tickets can be purchased via www.stagewestcalgary.com


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