Review: “Mamma Mia!” at Westchester Broadway Theatre

Published: Tuesday, April 4, 2017 By: John P. MccCarthy Source: On Stage

 

 

 

 

It’s a cardinal rule of arts criticism that a reviewer never tells prospective audience members how they ought to react to a given work. Rules are made to be broken however.

If you come away from Westchester Broadway Theatre’s exuberant production of “Mamma Mia” without a smile on your face, there’s something wrong with you.

Never mind if ABBA, the Swedish pop band from the 1970s & ‘80s, isn’t your cup of tea or if musicals aren’t your thing. Yes, the songs are drippy strands of string cheese that link disco with Glam Rock. And the book may be a clumsy effort to celebrate sexual freedom, modestly unconventional lifestyle choices, and progressive ideas about what constitutes a family.

Still, the show is a quasi-Dionysian ball of feel-good fluff. Resistance is pointless. So unless you’re a hopeless curmudgeon, genuine misanthrope, or true anarchist, please do yourself a favor and just go with it.

“Mamma Mia!” opened in London in 1999, ran on Broadway from 2001-2015, and was made into a movie starring Meryl Streep in 2008. It marks Westchester Broadway Theatre’s 200th mainstage production and, in both form and content, it’s ideally suited to a dinner theater venue. Its sensibility is mildly titillating and slightly subversive, yet safe enough for a wide cross-section of theatergoers.

For its version, WBT has employed a high percentage of artists who are working with the company for the first time, both on stage and behind the scenes. The results are impressive. Director and choreographer Mark Martino, a WBT neophyte with a long list of credits, efficiently presents the action using tight blocking and streamlined tableaus. There’s not a lot of extraneous business or wasted movement. Associate director and choreographer Elise Kinnon – who performs the role of sensual man-eater Tanya – is another talented WBT first-timer whose work is sharp.

Many of the cast members have appeared in “Mamma Mia!” before and their familiarity with the material no doubt contributes to the tautness of the production, which does equal justice to the show’s somewhat ribald humor and ear-worm musicality.