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Arts & Entertainment, etc.

Review: "Mamma Mia!"

October 27, 2009

The Broadway in Indianapolis subscription season gets off to a late start this year (the first presentation is the late December offering of "The Color Purple"). But some returnees have been added to the schedule as "specials," with the first stopping by last weekend.

Those, like me, who saw and enjoyed "Mamma Mia!" on previous visits, got what they paid for when the touring company came through Oct. 23-25. Anchored by a heartfelt Sophie (Liana Hunt) and a trio of amiable, charming potential papas (Michael Aaron Lindner, Martin Kildare, and John Hemphill), it moved briskly through the now-familiar story of a young about-to-be-married woman trying to figure out who her real father is before the walk down the aisle.

That the story seems more about her than about her mother, Donna (Michelle Dawson), speaks to a shift that I've noticed since first seeing the pre-Broadway run in Chicago.

Back then, the show was grounded in the earthy, road-hardened performance of Louise Pitre in the part. You sensed the dirt under her fingernails from managing her Greek taverna. And when her long-ditched romantic ideas were rekindled, it meant something. The current Donna seems like yet another soap opera stunner (with, I must say, some odd, unpleasant inflections in her singing) who melts far too quickly. And, on opening night, her gal pals were played by understudies far too young for the roles--although Jane Cooke made a game go of it as Rosie.

Still, the under appreciated, savvy book by Catherine Johnson and the undeniably infectious music helped overcome the show's cracks. Rather than burn out on the show, I'm now anxious to see what happens when regional theater rights are released and the like of Beef & Boards and Indianapolis Civic Theatre take a shot at it.

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