REVIEW: Mamma Mia

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Photo by Josh Meitz

Tino Dentino, a senior in the College of Communication, performed as Donna Sheridan.

You can dance, you can jive, and you’ll have the time of your life at Marquette Theatre’s production of Mamma Mia.

The show tells the story of Sophie and Donna, a daughter and mother on the eve of Sophie’s wedding. Sophie has invited three men she suspects are her father in the hopes of finding out which one it is, and hilarity ensues.

Peppered throughout the show are iconic ABBA songs such as “Dancing Queen” and “Super Trouper,” but I found that my favorite number of the show was a slower ballad between Donna and Sophie as they both reflect on the end of Sophie’s childhood and impending marriage. “Slipping Through my Fingers” is a song I usually skip when jamming out to the soundtrack, but seniors in the College of Communication Tino Dentino and Emma Knott put a lot of emotion behind the lyrics, and both voices were well-suited for the lilting tune. 

While the set was slightly underwhelming, with just a painted sky for a backdrop and some simple structures to indicate the hotel where the show takes place, the space lent itself well to the huge ensemble of characters. Especially with all the athletic dancing going on during the fast-paced songs, the space on stage was fully utilized, including the upstage area and platforms that jutted out into the audience. 

Despite the large ensemble, I found myself wishing for more male performers. One of the most iconic moments of Mamma Mia is during “Lay All Your Love On Me,” when a line of male ensemble members dances out in full scuba gear, including fins on their feet. The slapping of the fins on the stage combined with the line of men interrupting an intimate moment between Sophie and her fiancé Sky makes for a classic moment of musical comedy. Unfortunately, the effect was sort of lost by there only being three male ensemble members. While all three of them were wonderfully energetic and animated, it didn’t feel like a true musical farce with such a small group. 

But don’t let that fool you: The entire cast is amazingly talented.

Standout performances for me included Katie Markle, a senior in the College of Communication, who played Rosie, one of Donna’s close friends. Markle was the only one in the entire cast who I felt actually moved and spoke like a middle-aged woman, which added to her already impressive comedic moments such as a recurring awkward laugh. Sophomore in the College of Communication Matthew Read also blew me away as Harry. His beautiful voice perfectly fit the maladroit possible father. 

Of course, not everything can be perfect. The beginning of the show features the entire cast singing and dancing along to 80s and 90s songs such as “I Want It That Way” and “Wannabe” in what appears to be a bedroom. A banner on the wall lets the audience know that this is a graduation party, but there’s no context to why this is happening or if it will connect with the show. Indeed, the scene is cleaned up as Sophie sings her opening number, leaving the audience to wonder what exactly that was all about. There’s no reference to this again until the end of the show when the entire cast walks out in graduation caps and gowns. While I’m all for a directorial concept change, this one felt flat and confusing. 

The show lives up to the hype. And there is a lot of hype: The show sold out the entire run. So if you missed it, let’s just hope “bye-bye doesn’t mean forever” for Mamma Mia and Marquette University.

This story was written by Nora McCaughey. She can be reached at eleanor.mccaughey@marquette.edu.