Returning Mamma Mia! Isn’t Quite the Queen of the Dance Floor


You know it as Mamma Mia! I think of it as DNA The Musical: Who’s Yer Disco Daddy?

Either way it’s back in town after a five-year sabbatical. Slight as it is, this enormously popular jukebox musical is a winning little diversion when the screws are securely fastened. But Mamma/Vegas 2.0 apparently misplaced the bolt-tighteners.

Relocating its Greek Isle-set shenanigans from original home Mandalay Bay to the Tropicana, Mamma Mia! is, as the globe knows, about Sophie, a young bride-to-be who invites three men to her wedding, hoping to discover which one is her bio-pappy. Cue the weird love quadrangle with her distressed single mom, Donna, the owner of an island villa who never ID’d daddykins and thought she’d put those assignations in the past, but now has to face them again. Meanwhile, Donna reunites with her two gal pals and ex-singing partners who have arrived for the wedding, as various island denizens function as a kind of, well, Greek chorus.

Naturally, such a story can only be interpreted via ABBA tunes.

Staging in the production numbers often feels clumsy, dancers seeming as if they’re scrambling to stay out of each other’s way, rather than dovetailing into a unit. Otherwise stellar moments—island dudes prancing in purple scuba outfits and fins to “Lay All Your Love on Me,” a vibrant “Voulez-Vous” as Sophie copes with all three maybe-baby daddies and a comic flirtation set to “Take a Chance on Me”—hit awkward dance jags that derail the momentum.

Casting’s not the problem, particularly at the top, with Christine Sherrill exuding a world-weary sexiness as Donna, and Kimbre Lancaster lending Sophie the appropriate bubbly freshness. In supporting roles, Alison Ewing and Mary Callanan are comically sharp as Donna’s buds, Tanya and Rosie; UNLV grad Jordan Bondurant is affably beefcake-y as Sophie’s fiancé; and as the three contestants in the DNA Derby, Trey Ellett, Steve Judkins and Sean Allan Krill pull their weight.

However, the directing sometimes lets them down, as in the ostensibly giddy reunion of Donna, Tanya and Rosie, culminating in an impromptu “Dancing Queen.” Comic fizz should spray all over the stage as they exult in razzing each other and reliving old times, but the flat, lifeless timing wrecks the rhythm and torpedoes the mood.

Musically, ABBA’s oeuvre doesn’t make it easy on performers, but Sherrill packs a vocal wallop, particularly on “The Winner Takes It All,” a gut-buster that could bring down lesser singers. Ditto her duet with Krill on “S.O.S,” and Krill’s tackling of “Knowing Me, Knowing You”—though the strain on Krill’s face shows. We wonder if he’ll finish the song or produce a litter of poodles.

No complaints on the mini-concert finale. If you can’t get even a guilty-pleasure rush out of “Waterloo,” you’ve got no spandex in your soul.

Mamma Mia! is, as ever, a ball of cotton candy in silver bell-bottoms. This time around, it needs to sew the seams a little tighter.

C’mon, kids, get your boogie-oogie-oogie together.

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