A small, sparkly world

Cast of "Mamma Mia!" 2010 North American tour-Photo by Joan Marcus

I headed out to “Mamma Mia!” at ASU Gammage by myself Tuesday night. My 17-year-old daughter Lizabeth, my Gammage buddy for more than a decade, was feeling rather puny after a fitful few days with the flu.

She’s been a “super trouper” this week, going to school despite feeling awful, but finally had to listen to her body and just hit the hay. I had only my car radio for company on the drive to Tempe.

As I pulled out of the driveway, I turned to a 70s station and bopped a bit to tunes from Stevie Wonder, Foreigner, Tavares and Fleetwood Mac. The clock on my dashboard read 7:00 pm as ABBA’s “Take a Chance on Me” came through the speakers, and I worried I might not make it to the 7:30pm show on time.

But I discovered that we live just six oldies away from ASU Gammage. This is good news, because it’s hard to get out the door for anything that involves more than the denim shorts my son calls “farmer britches” and a beat up pair of sandles.

If you don't leave ASU Gammage looking like Donna Sheridan (Kaye Tuckerman), you'll at least leave feeling this perky-Photo: Joan Marcus

Knowing “Mamma Mia!” is a bit of a glitterfest with an extra shot of rainbow, I dug out a hot pink top and purple earrings to break up my basic black. James yelled “Don’t get too carried away dancing” as I headed out the door. My reply? “I can’t make any promises.”

The mood at ASU Gammage was festive, not just in the theater, but in the multi-story parking structure — where there was all sorts of “Mamma Mia!” girl power in the air. Giggling. High fives. Excited chatter about the show. And a glimpse of glitter too.

Before the show began, there was the usual announcement about turning off cell phones. Most people listened. Then another note that went something like this — “We must also warn patrons of a nervous disposition that platform boots and white Spandex are featured in this performance.” (Sounds like the produce guy at my local Safeway last Halloween).

That drew quite a roar, and the show was off and running. It never stopped. Everyone in the cast was high energy all the time, and the audience loved it. Think toe tapping, swaying side to side, uproarious laughter and generous applause throughout. What happens at ASU Gammage stays at ASU Gammage.

“Mamma Mia!” is set on a tiny Greek island. It’s a small world surrounding by a sparkling ocean and sky of beautiful blues. It feels smaller after three former lovers of single mother Donna show up for her daughter Sophie’s wedding.

John-Michael Zuerlein (Bill Austin), John Bisom (Sam Carmichael) and Paul DeBoy (Harry Bright)-"Mamma Mia!" 2010 North American tour-Photo by Joan Marcus

Seems 20-year-old Sophie has no idea who her father might be.

She suspects it’s one of these three after reading her mom’s diary — in which entries about each man end with an ellipsis.

Or “dot, dot, dot” — as Sophie likes to tell her friends. They remind her that it’s the moms who are supposed to sneak peeks at their daughter’s diaries.

But things are a bit topsy turvy on the island as Sophie rushes into adulthood and Donna reminisces about her youth. “Mamma Mia!” is a “midlifers” dream — full of puns and poignant moments that those of us old enough to have a Sophie of our own can relate to.

There’s much to love about this production of “Mamma Mia!” The simple set that puts song and storytelling first. The crisp voice and comedic flair of Chloe Tucker (Sophie Sheridan). The tautly toned men in the ensemble who make dancing in snorkel gear under something akin to blacklights look perfectly natural.

Also the pair who play Donna’s best buddies — Mary Callanan (Rosie) and Alison Ewing (Tanya). They’re a hoot. John Bisom (Sam Carmicheal), who sings with power and soul, gives heartthrob Matthew Morrison a run for his money. 

Happy Mahaney (Sky) and Chloe Tucker (Sophie Sheridan) in "Mamma Mia!" North American 2010 tour-Photo by Joan Marcus

The music — duh. The dancing. And the costumes, so saturated with color by the end of the show that you think you’ve died and gone to jelly bean heaven.

When “Mamma Mia!” drew to a close, a sizeable portion of the audience jumped to their feet to offer deafening applause. It might be the quickest standing ovation I’ve ever seen mounted at ASU Gammage (I’ve seen quite a few.)

The families I talked with during intermission offered high praise without exception. Every child or teen I spoke to raved about the songs, most telling me they were familiar with ABBA before their first “Mamma Mia!” moments. Lizabeth plans to see the show with James this weekend.

“Mamma Mia!” is sweet, simple, sparkly and sassy — just like the people who adore it.

— Lynn

Note: “Mamma Mia!” runs through May 22 at ASU Gammage. Click here to learn more about this and other shows coming to ASU Gammage, to read reviews by “Gammage Goers,” and to get details about special opportunities and savings.

Coming up: Weekend of change, “Comicon” meets contemporary art, Ode to season tickets, Musings on Mamet, Countdown to the Tony Awards®

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