Mamma Mia! Super trouper

Cast of Mamma Mia! at Drury Lane Theatre. (Brett Beiner photo)
Cast of Mamma Mia! at Drury Lane Theatre. (Brett Beiner photo)

4 stars

Artistic Director, William Osetek has staged a fresh and exciting new production of “Mamma Mia!, the 1999 smash hit musical that became a cult classic for Baby Boomers twenty years ago and is one of Broadway’s original juke box musicals.

Taking almost two dozen hit tunes from the ABBA songbook, Drury Lane’s stage version makes audiences forget Chicago’s cold, snowy winter, as well as a rather disappointing 2008 film version.

Here, live and on stage, is a great opportunity to enjoy a polished, professional production of how that musical is suppose to look and sound. And this production is not only pitch perfect but, decked out in shiny spandex, platform heels and a ton of glitter and glitz, it’s a feast for the eyes as well.

For those few theatergoers unfamiliar with this show, the slim story revolves around Sophie, a young bride-to-be who wants to learn the identity of her father so he can give her away at the wedding.

Sophie found her mom’s old diary. After reading about Donna’s romantic exploits as a younger woman, Sophie has narrowed the search to three possible men and she secretly invites each of her three prospective dads to the tiny Grecian island where she and her mother live, especially to attend the wedding.

The rest of the flimsy plot, which seems like just a clever gimmick to connect some of ABBA’s greatest hits into some kind of story, revolves around the mystery of who is the real father. However, being honest, most audiences don’t attend this musical for its story, but to relive the glitzy disco era that’s evoked by ABBA’s songs.

Susie McMonagle, a Chicago’s favorite and remembered fondly for her performance in Drury Lane’s stellar production “Next to Normal,” is radiant here in the leading role of Donna Sheridan.

McMonagle who created this role for the National Tour of “Mamma Mia!,” is a true star of the musical stage. She has an exquisitely expressive, lyrical singing voice and, as a mother trying to pull off her daughter’s wedding, is absolute perfection. It’s almost as if this role had been written just for her.

McKinley Carter, Susie McMonagle and Elizabeth Ledo in Mamma Mia! (Brett Beiner photo)
McKinley Carter, Susie McMonagle and Elizabeth Ledo in Mamma Mia! (Brett Beiner photo)

McMonagle’s touching duet with Sophie, “Slipping Through My Fingers,” as well as her gorgeous performance of “The Winner Takes it All,” are especially moving.

Teamed with the incomparable Elizabeth Ledo as Rosie and the tantalizing McKinley Carter as Tanya, these divas tear up the stage as Donna’s old friends and former singing partners.

They soar through pop hits like “Money, Money, Money,” “Chiquitita,” “Super Trooper,” “Waterloo,” the always contagious “Dancing Queen” and, of course, the title song, “Mamma Mia.”

Ledo leaves it all on the stage with her sensuous and hysterical, “Take a Chance on Me,” sung with the very funny Michael Accardo, as Bill. Carter heats up the stage with Chicago newcomer, Kevin Corbett, as Pepper, performing a sultry “Does Your Mother Know?” The three ladies bring the audience to their feet, heads bopping, hands clapping and bodies swaying, in every song they sing.

This production has an exceptional new talent in young Rebecca as Sophie Sheridan, Donna’s 20-year-old daughter who is about to tie the knot with her handsome young boyfriend, Sky, played with charisma and chivalry by the always impressive, Liam Quealy.

Rebecca Hurd and Liam Quealy in Mamma Mia at Drury Lane Theatre. (Brett Beiner photo)
Rebecca Hurd and Liam Quealy in Mamma Mia at Drury Lane Theatre. (Brett Beiner photo)

 Hurd who was in Writers Theatre’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” and Goodman’s “Enemy of the People,” brings an honest sincerity and freshness to the role in this Drury Lane debut. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing a lot more of this actress because Rebecca Hurd can act, sing and dance with the best of them.

And she just happens to be joined by the best of them, a terrifically talented supporting singing/dancing ensemble who don’t hold back, as they execute Jane Lanier’s wacky and wonderfully creative choreography.

As Sophie’s three prospective fathers, Stef Tovar, the aforementioned Michael Accardo and handsome, dashing Chicago leading man, Jeff Parker, provide strong foils for the three women, each showcasing his individual vocal and comedy chops, as well.

Jeffrey D. Kmiec has done a fine job scenically designing this production, bringing the sunshine, the bright blue Mediterranean  sky and the warm, azure waters of the Aegean Sea to the Drury Lane stage. Inspired by Greece’s sailboats and canvas windmills, he’s surrounded his cast in a primitive, multilevel, sun-bleached Greek tavern that easily transforms into several other locations.

Lee Fiskness’ luminous lighting design mixes the shining sun with festoons of floral-colored illumination and concert lighting. Marianne Custer has designed a summertime wardrobe for her cast that’s at once colorful, flattering and pays homage to the glitter and spandex of the disco era.

Dredging up fond memories of the mirror-balled 1970’s and 80’s while filling the audience’s head with over two dozen infectious ABBA hits, William Osetek has created a fresh, brisk and buoyant new interpretation of a musical whose only weakness is its story.

Roberta Duchak, once again, has skillfully guided her cast through the catchy pop score, nicely accompanied by Christopher Sargent’s spirited seven-member pit band.

With hits like “The Name of the Game,” “Under Attack,” “S.O.S.,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and the haunting melody that opens and closes the show, “I Have a Dream,” it’s guaranteed that audiences will leave Drury Lane saying, “Thank You For the Music,” having enjoyed this superior “Super Trouper” of a show.

 DETAILS:”Mamma Mia!” is at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace,  through April 12, 2019. Running time:  2 hrs. 25 min. with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (630) 530-0111 or visit Drury Lane Theatre


Colin Douglas

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago



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