With a jukebox musical, the songs often only loosely support the storyline, which can be off-putting for audience members unfamiliar with the tunes around which the plot is based.
But if you love ABBA, you’ll be on board from the first scene of Beef & Boards’ “Mamma Mia!,” the musical built around some of the Swedish pop artists’ biggest hits.
From “Dancing Queen” to title tune “Mamma Mia!” these songs make you want to sing along.
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The story follows a young girl preparing for her wedding and agonizing over one guest: her father. The problem? She doesn’t know who he is. But with the help of her mother’s diary, with entries gushing about the men Donna (Amy Bodnar) was seeing before she got pregnant, Sophie (Rachelle Rose Clark) has narrowed the possibilities to three — and invited them all to the nuptials without Mom’s knowledge.
The show opens with Sophie and her bridesmaids giggling and reading Donna’s most intimate memories aloud. The girlish relationship between the bride and her wedding party feels a bit forced in this opening scene, but give it time, and you’ll warm up to the sugar-sweetness of this show — cheesy one-liners and all.
Clark as Sophie masters a youthful naivete juxtaposed nicely by the adults in her life who feel weighed down by a lifetime of choices they aren’t always confident were best.
The show’s first big number, “Money, Money, Money,” serves to introduce Donna, with playful but understated choreography befitting as backup for our no-frills protagonist.
Donna, after all, has a hotel — the backdrop for Sophie’s fast-approaching wedding — to run and no time for the antics that accompany so many people from the past dropping by.
But the past wins her over, as her best friends from childhood arrive, as well as the men who won — and broke — her heart back in those days.
This show is heavy on nostalgia, and watching Donna succumb to it is delightful. Some of the show’s best moments are of Mom alongside her best friends/former backup singers from her performing days. The chemistry is much more natural among the matriarch and childhood friends Tanya (Jalynn Steele) and Rosie (Lanene Charters).
Charters nails Rosie’s signature quirkiness, while Steele brings sass to Tanya that makes her one of the most fun to watch on stage. That connection builds vocally; this trio has the best blend in the show.
“Mamma Mia!’s” playful mood is accentuated by Ryan Koharchik’s light design, which transitions seamlessly from nightclub to seaside oasis.
The three contenders for father of the bride — Harry (Don Farrell), Sam (Mark Epperson) and Bill (Jeff Stockberger) — each welcome Donna, their former flame, with open arms.
Donna, on the other hand, finds herself somewhere between grateful and mortified at seeing them all — and all at once.
Harry, Sam and Bill bring distinctly different personalities, and the actors excel at setting themselves apart, making it hard to root for just one of them to turn out to be Sophie’s father.
This show isn’t a thinker; it’s fun for the sake of it, with two-dimensional characters whose predictability you won’t mind if you go into the theater with the right expectations.
The silly, dance-filled show is on stage at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre through April 8.