The Swedish pop stars enjoy a strong female fan base, women eager to be Dancing Queens at the drop of a shimmery scarf. The band’s music is infectious no matter your gender, which makes dads seeing “Mamma Mia!” more than a marital obligation.
Yes, you’ll bank Husband Points by catching the current Broadway tour, now playing in Denver through Feb. 2 before dancing on to Avon, Colo., Columbia, Miss., St. Louis and Pittsburgh. Plus, “Mamma Mia’s” message about fatherhood can make dads forgive the crush of bell bottoms.
Wacky complications ensue. Smoldering resentments from long ago. The arrival of Donna’s best gal pals (comic cutups Gabrielle Mirabella, Carly Sakolove). One cougar-chasing lad. It’s all intertwined with ABBA hits in fine jukebox musical fashion.
That means some numbers feel organic, while others could have been airlifted in from Sweden moments before the curtain opened.
Consider “The Winner Takes It All,” an emotional highlight late in Act II. The number shows how Haege’s Donna overcomes the musical’s cardboard situations. She’s angry, no doubt, but the actress maintain’s the song’s potency while drawing us in to Donna’s plight. Haege’s voice doesn’t sound confident during her first appearance on stage. Her instrument rebounds swiftly, anchoring both the show and her complicated character.
Sophie’s search for her daddy will resonate with fathers everywhere. It’s a sobering element in a show known for women squeezing into costumes they rocked during the disco era.
“Mamma Mia!” doesn’t demand a fabulous set to distract us from the purposely garish costumes. The tour’s spare design is a letdown all the same. Rather than evoke the Greek Island setting in a naturalist fashion, the backdrop features a distracting band of colored horizontal stripes. The building segments meant to capture Donna’s Greek tourist spot also fail to inspire.
The bawdier comic bits are too raw for pre-teens, but dads won’t squirm too much if they take their teens along for the show. That can’t be said for some of the sight gags which inspire equal part laughs and groans, but it’s all in good fun.
The musical hordes some energy for the finale. The unabashed sing-a-long practically powers the theater’s flood lights and every incandescent bulb in the neighborhood. Just try staying in your seat for it.
“Mamma Mia!” remains a cotton candy treat in its current incarnation. Fathers resist live versions of “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and “S.O.S.” at their own peril.
(Photo Credit: Kevin Thomas Garcia)