Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Seattle

Mamma Mia!
Farewell Tour
Review by David Edward Hughes


The Cast
Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia
Whether or not this is truly the "farewell tour" of the venerable worldwide stage and screen sensation Mamma Mia! is subject to debate, but one thing is certain: For sheer energy and casting precision the current national tour booking at the Paramount is the most enjoyable of a show I can only rate as one of the great cotton candy cocktails of all time. And if you are not an Abba fan when you enter you could possibly be one by the time you exit.

Most of the music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus (and some songs with Stig Anderson) have a tenuous relationship at best to the wispy book by Catherine Johnson. Set in Greece, a 20-year-old sweetheart of a girl named Sophie is engaged to be wed. After reading her mother Donna's diary, Sophie invites three of mum's paramours (using Donna's name), Harry, Bill and Sam, to the ceremony, as she is certain one of them is her unknown father. Donna has invited her two best chums and former performing partners Tanya and Rosie as well.

Sophie and her groom to be Sky are having some doubts about their nuptials, and all of these elements are tossed into a wedding week full of sexual tension, alcohol, confrontations, more alcohol, and a final twist you may or may not see coming. The original direction by Phillipa Lloyd is still crisp, and the choreography by Anthony Van Laast is still high octane, high energy funny, laden with goofy touches and acrobatics. Production design by Mark Thompson and lighting design by Howard Harrison remain in good shape, and the musical supervision, additional materials and arrangements by Martin Koch are exemplary. Sound design by Andrew Bruce and Bobby Aitken is generally crisp and clean and not ear-exploding.

But all of this would be for naught were the cast and ensemble phoning it in, and this company particularly shines. Betsy Padamonsky etches her Donna skillfully as a practical, independent woman who is finally able to let out the dreamer she locked up inside when she became a young mother. She really knocks her big ballad "The Winner Takes It All" out of the Taverna. As Sophie, Lizzie Markson is the best actress I have ever seen in the role, and she creates clear relationships with all her co-stars, including the attractive and talented Dustin Harris Smith as fiancé Sky, with whom she shares a high-powered "Lay All Your Love on Me."

Cashelle Butler is a tall, sexy, Julie Newmar-ish goofball cougar as Tanya and brings down the house with zany co-star Austin Michael as Pepper in the rousing "Does Your Mother Know?" Sarah Smith is Rosie, the chubby dark horse of Donna's trio, and lifts the show up with a hilariously out of left field "Take a Chance on Me" sung to Marc Cornes, who gives an ace comic performance as Bill. Andrew Tebo is delightful as Harry, singing a charming "Thank You for the Music," and although a bit stiff in his performance, Shai Yammanee as Sam shines on his vocals "One of Us" and "Knowing Me, Knowing You."

It is unsurprising to note that Padamonsky, Butler and Smith get some of the most kitschy Abba delights to wail together (and what a wail) with the likes of "Dancing Queen," "Super Trouper," and the ubiquitous title song. The ensemble men and ladies exude high energy and raffish sexiness, and the moments when the guys are in scuba outfits always crack me up. Those who can't see farther than the nearest Follies or want to moon over a masked opera lover aren't the audience for this kind of escapism. But the full house at the Paramount on opening seemed to love every minute.

Mamma Mia!, The Farewell Tour, runs through April 2, 2017, at the Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine Street at 9th Ave. To purchase tickets, visit www.stgpresents.org, call 1-800-745-3000, or visit the Paramount box-office. For more information on the tour, visit www.mammamiaontour.com/mm.


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