When I was younger, my parents played our ABBA record so often it looked like our cats had gotten to it. By the time my mother and I watched the Mamma Mia movie we were hooked and it has since become something we can always bond over. I have seen many renditions of Mamma Mia portrayed on stage (with varying budgets) and the most recent was definitely one of my favourites.
This play, directed by Antonio Sarmiento and presented by The Port Hope Festival Theatre, begins with a young woman (Sophie) finding her single mother's (Donna) old diary where she discovers the names of three men who may be her estranged father. She decides to invite them to her wedding with full intentions of uncovering which one is her real dad. Between her mother, her mother’s friends, and her possible fathers, chaos ensues, ending with a marriage -- but not the one that was expected.
The story has themes of forgiveness, acceptance, and coming-of-age demonstrated in almost every scene. It builds the character of Donna by beginning with her disproving outlook on the idea of marriage at such a young age. It's later revealed that this is due to her well-aged, distrustful attitude towards men. She tries to keep her distance from her ex-lovers but they somehow find a way back into her life in different ways, ending with all three men attending Sophie's wedding. Acceptance and forgiveness is reached by every major role in the play; from being okay with not knowing who Sophie’s biological dad is, to having one of the possible fathers admit his homosexuality. As much as the play involves Sophie trying to figure out her own life, it’s also the devolving-of-age forced on Donna via her long-time friends and former lovers.
With all of the chaos created within the story, the director makes great scene choices to provide comic relief. My personal favourite is when all the groomsmen are dancing in full swim gear (goggles, snorkel, and flippers) at Sophie's fiancé’s bachelor party. The simultaneous singing and dancing is extremely impressive, and that isn’t limited to just this scene either. The exuberant energy held throughout the play by the actors and the orchestra is equally impressive.
When the play begins with scenes that were fairly similar to the movie, I began questioning how they were going to transfer it from film to live action, as well as keep all of the favourite ABBA songs. Most of the songs are preserved (as well as one added), but they are altered to fit the shorter runtime and make transitions between scenes smoother. A completely unique scene features Sophie in a dream sequence, utilized to express the stress that her fathers are creating within her. On her bed, she sings ABBA’s “The Day Before You Came” while all three dads pace around her providing assistance on the chorus; the other cast members begin twisting and turning the set. This sequence causes the entire audience to feel dizzy and confused, making Sophie’s anxieties feel even more real. The set perfectly reflects the scene’s atmosphere by using small touches such as flowers, coffee cups, and newspapers on courtyard tables. Props such as towels and beach gear are brought out subtly by some of the extras, creating a seamless segue from the courtyard to the beach. Those involved in the creation of the set, props, and costumes should be praised for making the production run so smoothly.
Overall, this play was well executed and kept me entertained the whole way through. Between the casting, the stage setting and props, it was obvious how long and hard they had been rehearsing. By ending with all the actors dancing through the aisles and involving the audience in the celebration, every person left the theater with a grin on their face and Mamma Mia stuck in their head.
Marta Zwart lives in Ottawa, Canada, and is intrigued by writing, acting, and sarcasm. Her greatest accomplishment is being able to blow a bubble with a whole pack of Hubba Bubba gum in her mouth. Marta’s dream is to briefly concern the public by writing for The Beaverton or The Onion.