‘Mamma Mia!’ is fun despite slow stretch

Despite an early dry patch, you can understand why “Mamma Mia!” has become the stage and film jugger

I set out from Cobleskill for Proctors on Tuesday and arrived on Wednesday night. The vagaries of pre-Halloween snowstorms, don’t you know!

Mamma Mia!

WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady

WHEN: through Nov. 2

HOW MUCH: $65-$20

MORE INFO: 346-6204

But the good humor, pulsing ABBA music, and some explosive dance numbers still had an opening night shine, enough to mask the dry patch in the first half of Act II. Thanks to the energy of the large cast and the pop of the pit band under Susan Draus’ direction, you can understand why “Mamma Mia!” has become the stage and film juggernaut it has.

“Mamma Mia!” is, of course, another Greek tale. (OK, not really.) It’s a typical boys meet girl, girl gets pregnant, girl doesn’t know who the father is, the three possible papas show up for the child’s wedding on a Greek island 20 years later, so do the girl’s friends from a singing group she was once part of — well, maybe it is a Greek story after all, what with large doses of dramatic irony and musical soliloquies.

Such exegesis, however, is completely uncalled for. This sparkling touring production, last in town in October 2006, satisfies like baklava, not moussaka. Anthony Van Laast’s jaw-dropping choreography on such numbers as “Money, Money, Money,” and “Voulez-Vous,” which closes Act I, show off the ensemble and lead actors to splendid effect.

In fact, Act I is a joy from start to finish. Donna (Susie McMonagle) and her gal pals Rosie (Kittra Wynn Coomer) and Tanya (Michelle Dawson) tear up “Dancing Queen”; McMonagle credibly bares Donna’s soul in the title song; and the three middle-aged women reprise one of their girl-group numbers in a rocking “Super Trouper.”

“Lay All Your Love on Me,” with the male chorus in wet suits and flippers, is also a delight.

Alas, Act II goes south for awhile, starting with a muddy “Under Attack.”

The script’s attempt at drama remains just that — an attempt, and maybe an unnecessary one — with Donna’s encounters with her former paramours and the bride-to-be, Sophie (an excellent Rose Sezniak), troubles with her fiance (Geoffrey Hemingway).

The patchy stretch isn’t helped by songs that are poorly staged, leaving the game Hemphill on “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and “SOS” and McMonagle on “The Winner Takes It All” with little to do. Static, not dramatic. Truth be told, too, McMonagle’s voice doesn’t quite take the full measure of this anthem anyway.

However, thanks to the antics of Coomer and Martin Kildare, as Bill, in “Take a Chance on Me,” the show perks up again and sails on to a predictably funny and cheerful conclusion, with the inevitable marriage. (Comedy comes from the Greek word “comus,” meaning fertility rite — oh, never mind.)

The costumes are colorful, and the expert lighting, subtly changing within and between scenes, gives the play a cinematic flow, and that’s all to the good.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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