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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Mamma Mia! Revisited

The smash hit musical Mamma Mia! has come roaring back into town and will hold forth at the Orpheum Theatre through September 14. The musical that took San Francisco by storm had its United States premiere in our city in November 2000 before captivating audiences in New York. This full national road company features Dee Hoty in the role of Donna and sweet voiced Michelle Aravena as Donna's soon to be married daughter Sophie. Both Ms. Hoty and Ms. Aravena are having a grand time singing the tuneful, foot-tapping ABBA songs.

In my review of the original Canadian company (viewable in our achives ), I said that I had one of the most dizzying evenings in the theater. That still holds true for this touring company. This production does not scrimp on cast, sets or orchestra. There is a full complement of dancers and singers on the Orpheum stage dancing and singing their hearts out to an appreciative audience. The patrons in the packed house the night I saw the show could not keep from swaying their bodies, tapping their feet and clapping their hands to the infectious beat of the ABBA score. There is no doubt about it - this is an audience pleasing, effervescent musical that only a dedicated curmudgeon could discard.

The plot, loosely based on the film Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell, goes from one plot convention to the next with the ABBA songs fitting in nicely to advance the story. Sophie, who has been raised on a Greek island by her single mother, is about to be married. She wishes she knew the identity of her father so he could give her away at the wedding. Sophie finds her mother’s diary and discovers that Donna had an affair with three men 20 years prior. All of the men are living in different parts of the world and somehow Sophie finds their address and invites them to the wedding. Of course, this being a good time musical, the three men come to wedding.

Comparisons must be made between Louise Pitre and Dee Hoty in the role of Donna. Ms. Pitre's voice is more sassy and powerful than Ms. Hoty's and the former is able to belt out some of the ABBA songs to greater effect. Ms. Hoty, however, shines in the more romantic numbers, especially in “Our Last Summer” and “The Winner Takes It All.” Michelle Aravena as Sophie has a bell clear voice and gives a stellar performance in the title song. The touring cast was very well chosen and chemistry between cast members is excellent. Gabrielle Jones and Mary Ellen Mahoney have returned to play Donna’s old singing partners and they seem to have toned down their comedic antics. Their rendition of “Dancing Queen” is still a hoot. The “ballet” in the dream sequence at the beginning of the second act, with a chorus of Day-Glo scuba divers, is still a crowd pleasure. Once again, we are treated to the grand finale in which the whole cast comes onstage in outlandish, colorful disco costumes to sing three ABBA songs to a roaring, dancing, hand clapping crowd who are having the time of their lives. As the British say, “good show!”

Mamma Mia! has been extended through September 14th at the Orpheum Theatre. Tickets can be purchased at the Orpheum Theatre box office at 1192 Market Street, all Ticketmaster outlets, by calling Ticketmaster at 415-512-7770 or by visiting www. Ticketmaster.com. For more information go to www.bestofbroadway-sf.com.


Cheers - and be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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