My my, how can I resist…writing about this musical? I can’t. It’s as simple as that. Now you may be wondering, am I speaking of the theater version or the film from 2008? You may not be wondering at all, but I’ll tell you anyway, it’s the first one.
On December 11, I attended a Sunday matinee show of Mamma Mia on stage at the ASU Gammage auditorium in Tempe, AZ. I went with my mom and a group of friends. We were all seated in the same row, high up in the balcony seats. I’m not afraid heights and I usually tend to do well with heights, but I have to admit, even I was a bit woozie when walking along the narrow aisle. I think it was a combination of the darkened auditorium and the height. But the weird feeling quickly subsided as we settled into our seats and excitedly waited for the show to begin.
It should be said at this point, I am a huge ABBA fan. I grew up listening to their songs on repeat, singing along with mom whenever we listened to the ABBA Gold CD that she owned. It’s a musical love that has lasted into adulthood. So it was great when the movie came out and I got to watch it and enjoy the music in a new way, with mom of course. It was the best of both worlds, a musical with a great cast and a bunch of ABBA songs. The movie was set in the Greek isles, a gorgeous setting, which I immediately longed to visit.
Now that I’ve had the opportunity to see both the stage version and movie, I have to say the stage version was fantastic and may have slightly edge out the movie as my favorite. But that’s not difficult to do, given my love of musicals and stage productions in general. Give me an evening with Shakespeare over a rock concert any day. But don’t get me wrong, I definitely still love rock music and certain rock concerts are still on my “must see” list.
One big reason the stage version outshone its cinematic counterpart, all the voices were phenomenal. Plus the acting was on par with that of the all-stars in the film. The same cannot be said for everyone’s singing in the movie. Meryl Streep has a great voice and has done quite a bit of stage work. I’m of course not referring to her or her dynamos, Rosie and Tanya(Julie Walters and Christine Baranski, respectively). Nor Amanda Seyfried and her friends. Honestly, even Dominic Cooper(Howard Stark in “Agent Carter”, and now Jesse Custer of “Preacher” fame on AMC) surprised me with his singing. But, half the time he could have been squawking the notes and I wouldn’t have noticed…sigh….ahem…where was I?
Oh yes! The three leading men left a bit to be desired in the singing category. Despite how much I love Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård, both fantastic actors, they’re not exactly trained singers. But they gave it their best shot and it was appreciated. I’ve never been a big fan of Pierce Brosnan. I didn’t like him as James Bond and I’ve not seen very many of his movies. I have to say Mamma Mia may be one of my favorite roles of his and he is a good actor. But the guy CANNOT sing. I have to give him a little credit for giving it a go, but it’s really hard to enjoy his performances. If he was singing anything other than ABBA I would have probably been a harsher critic.
The actor (Shai Yammanee) who played the same character, Sam Carmichael, in the stage show was a stark contrast to Brosnan. His voice was fantastic and complimented his acting on stage perfectly. It was swoonworthy. The same could not be said of Brosnan’s portrayal. Now, Dominic Cooper on the other hand…Before distraction sets in again, I want to clarify, that this is not a Brosnan bashing. He wasn’t awful, just not that great. But he also isn’t a singer nor does he want to be known as one. I just can’t help but thinking he wasn’t their first choice, or probably shouldn’t have been.All that aside, let’s get back to the stage show shall we?
Very little was different from the movie. They shared the same chronological story-line centered around the daughter of a hotel owner who is getting married and wants her father at her wedding. The only problem is that her mother doesn’t know which of three possible men might actually be her father. So the daughter invites all three men, whose names she got out of her mother’s diary, and all without telling her mother. Slight spoiler, mom finds out. She then tries hard, with the help of her friends and former girl-band members, to keep her daughter’s wedding on track while setting aside her lingering feelings for former flame, Sam.
The only difference (aside from being limited to a stage) that I recall, was the addition of a couple more songs in the stage production than in the movie. This was a pleasant surprise and really added to the overall enjoyment of the show. I felt a little bad for my friend Tina, who was sat next to us and had to listen to mom and I quietly sing along with each and every song. She made a comment, as we were all out for food after the show, that she was impressed by how we knew every single word. I chalked it up to years of practice and repetition. Born from both a love of not only the band but music in general.
I would recommend that everyone go out and see this show, but it was advertised as the farewell tour. So I’m not entirely sure if you would be able to go out and see it, unless you were willing to travel. But if you’ve never seen the movie, it’s the next best thing and entertaining in its own right. Great for any fan of musicals or ABBA.